Photos: 2,000-Year-Old Tombs Found in Egyptian Oasis

Post 8512

Photos: 2,000-Year-Old Tombs Found in Egyptian Oasis

Egyptian oasis

Credit: Egypt Ministry of Antiquities

AI Could Predict Alzheimer’s Disease Two Years in Advance

Post 8511

AI Could Predict Alzheimer’s Disease Two Years in Advance

Credit: agsandrew/Shutterstock

An artificial-intelligence-driven algorithm can recognize the early signs of dementia in brain scans, and may accurately predict who will developAlzheimer’s disease up to two years in advance, a new study finds.

The algorithm — which accurately predicted probable Alzheimer’s disease 84 percent of the time — could be particularly useful in selecting patients for clinical trials for drugs intended to delay disease onset, said lead study author Sulantha Sanjeewa, a computer scientist at McGill University in Canada.

“If you can tell from a group of of individuals who is the one that will develop the disease, one can better test new medications that could be capable of preventing the disease,” said co-lead study author Dr. Pedro Rosa-Neto, an associate professor of neurology, neurosurgery and psychiatry, also at McGill University. [6 Big Mysteries of Alzheimer’s Disease]

The technology is still in its early stages, but the findings suggest that AI analysis of brain scans could offer better results than relying on humans alone, Rosa-Neto told Live Science.

The findings are detailed in a new study, which was published online in July in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

Developing drugs that slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease requires that the drugs be tested in clinical trials that run between 18 and 24 months, Rosa-Neto said. But if people who are selected for the trial never develop Alzheimer’s during that time, it’s impossible to say whether a drug was effective, he said.

“You want to include people who will be progressing from mild cognitive impairment to dementia in the time of the clinical trial,” Rosa-Neto said. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

But selecting the best patients for these trials is a challenge, because it is difficult to predict who will develop the condition, Rosa-Neto said. Scientists know that the buildup of a protein called amyloid, which accumulates in various regions of the brain, can lead to cognitive impairment. But piecing together the complex patterns of where and how much of the protein builds up, and then using that information to predict when a person will develop Alzheimer’s disease is difficult to do by reading PET scans alone. (These scans are imaging tests that use a radioactive dye to identify certain diseases in the body.)

The presence of amyloid in the brain, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that a person will develop Alzheimer’s within a certain time; for some, it may take five to 10 years for the symptoms of dementia to appear, Rosa-Neto said. Others may never develop the disease, he said. But once a person has developed dementia, it is very difficult to return the brain to normal cognitive function, Rosa-Neto added.

The artificial intelligence program that Rosa-Neto’s team developed could help doctors identify the best participants for Alzheimer’s drug clinical trials by predicting who is likely to develop the disease within a two-year window.

Creating an effective AI algorithm involves three main steps: writing the software, training it and then testing it to see how well it works, the researchers said.

As they were writing the software, the software engineers gave the algorithm some hints to help it analyze the PET images, Rosa-Neto said. The engineers designed it to take into consideration a common problem that pops up when studying people with mild cognitive impairment: In any given population, only a small fraction of a people will develop dementia.

The programmers also designed the algorithm to consider that the buildup of amyloid protein can occur at different rates, in different concentrations and at different locations in the brain, according to the study. [10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Brain]

During the training portion of the study, the scientists used the algorithm to analyze the presence of amyloid in PET scans from nearly 200 patients who had mild cognitive impairment. The algorithm was then shown images from up to 24 months before the patients had developed the disease.

Once the program learned from this information, it was shown an entirely new set of amyloid PET brain scans from more than 270 individuals who had mild cognitive impairments. Of them, 43 were diagnosed with probable Alzheimer’s disease after the 24-month follow-up. However, the algorithm was shown only the images taken before the disease had fully developed. Using what it had learned, the AI algorithm predicted with 84 percent accuracy which individuals would develop the disease, according to the study.

In the study, the authorsnoted that no system that predicts Alzheimer’s disease based on images alone can be 100 percent accurate. In about 10 percent of diagnoses of “probable Alzheimer’s diseases,” for example, people actually have a different form of cognitive impairment.

The researchers also noted the group of people included in the study described themselves as having some loss of memory and may not represent the general public. The authors added that it would be highly desirable to replicate the findings in a general population.

Based on this study, the team also created a pilot version of a real-time prediction tool that will analyze individuals’ PET brain scans and spit out probabilities of when the individuals may develop dementia within a 24-month period. The tool is available to the public online.

Originally published on Live Science.

Photos: Colorful Blooms Sprout Across the World’s Driest Desert

Post 8510

Photos: Colorful Blooms Sprout Across the World’s Driest Desert


Credit: Mario Ruiz/Zuma

How Spaceflight Changes the Building Blocks of the Human Body

Post 8509

How Spaceflight Changes the Building Blocks of the Human Body

Astronaut Ed White performed the first American spacewalk during the Gemini 4 mission on June 3, 1965.

Credit: NASA

Humans first journeyed into space in 1961, but even half a century later, questions remain about how spaceflight affects the human body. In a new study, scientists got down to the molecular level to better understand why weightlessness causes changes in the body.

A number of effects have been documented in the handful of individuals who have experienced spaceflight, including changes to the body’s metabolism, temperature control, muscle tone and immune system, according to the study — but the mechanisms driving these changes still aren’t fully understood.

The answer, however, may reside in one of the body’s building blocks: proteins. [7 Everyday Things That Happen Strangely In Space]

In the new study, published online Aug. 15 in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers from Canada and Russia found that spaceflight lowered the concentrations of certain proteins in the body, and some of these proteins appeared to return more slowly to their pre-spaceflight levels than others.

Looking at the differences in protein concentrations is one way to understand some of the larger changes that take place in the body duringspaceflight. For example, the researchers found that nearly all the proteins that were affected by spaceflight were related to just a few processes in the body, including fat metabolism, blood clotting and immunity.

The scientists, for example, found that “in weightlessness, the immune system acts like it does when the body is infected because the human body doesn’t know what to do and tries to turn on all possible defense systems,” senior study author Evgeny Nikolaev, a professor of chemical physics at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Russia, said in a statement.

To study the effects of spaceflight on proteins in the body, the scientists took three blood-plasma samples from each of 18 Russian cosmonauts before and after long-duration missions to the International Space Station. The first sample was taken 30 days before the mission, the second sample was taken immediately after the cosmonaut returned to Earth, and the final sample was taken seven days after that. In future studies, Nikolaev noted that cosmonauts could take blood samples while in orbit to provide more accurate accounts of how protein concentrations change.

The scientists used a mass spectrometer to analyze the concentrations of 125 different proteins in the cosmonauts’ blood plasma. (Mass spectroscopy is a technique used to assess the different masses in a given sample.)

Just 19 of the 125 different proteins analyzed were found at different concentrations both immediately after and seven days after the cosmonauts’ return to Earth, compared with pre-spaceflight levels, according to the study. Concentrations of several proteins, for example, were lower immediately after spaceflight, but returned to pre-spaceflight levels within seven days. It’s possible that the changes in concentrations in these instances were due to the final stage of the flight, which includes the emotional stress of landing, the researchers wrote. [6 Surprising Facts About the First Manned Space Mission]

Another group of proteins were found to be at similar concentrations to pre-spaceflight levels immediately after landing, but then either increased or decreased in the following days. These changes may reflect how the body reacclimates to Earth’s gravity after spaceflight, according to the study.

Two of the proteins, which are involved in transporting fat and iron through the blood, were at significantly lower levels both immediately after the cosmonauts’ return from space, and seven days. These lingering changes suggest that the body had made certain adaptions to handle spaceflight, the researchers wrote.

“Weightlessness for humans is completely new in evolutionary terms, being an environmental factor [that] our species has not faced during thecourse of evolution,” the researchers wrote in the study. Because of this, the ways that humans adapt to weightlessness are not predictable, they said.

Originally published on Live Science.

This Week’s Strangest Science News

Post 8508

This Week’s Strangest Science News

At Live Science, we delve into science news from around the world every day — and some of those stories can get a little weird. Here are some of the strangest science news articles from this week.

Fire ants weren’t going to go softly into the night after Harvey flooded Houston. Rather, they banded together to make fire ant rafts, which are buoyant, in part, because the ants can trap air with their bodies. [Read more about the fire ant rafts, and learn how to sink them]

Fossilized eggs belonging to the Cretaceous dinosaur Heyuannia huangi hold traces of pigment hinting that they were a blue-green color. To the naked eye, they appear blackish-brown.

Fossilized eggs belonging to the Cretaceous dinosaur Heyuannia huangi hold traces of pigment hinting that they were a blue-green color. To the naked eye, they appear blackish-brown.

Credit: Copyright 2017 Wiemann et al.

About 66 million years ago, a bird-like dinosaur laid a clutch of blue-green eggs in what is now China. How do researchers know the color of these ancient eggs? They studied the pigments within them. [Read more about the dinosaurs’ colorful eggs]

Birling Gap beach and the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs, East Sussex, England.

Birling Gap beach and the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs, East Sussex, England.

Credit: Solnechnaja/Shutterstock

A strange chemical fog swept through beaches in southern England on Sunday (Aug. 27), prompting nearly 150 people to seek medical attention for stinging eyes, sore throats and vomiting. The fog disappeared on Monday, and its contents are still unknown. [Read more about the mysterious chemical fog]

Some people in California put sunscreen on their eyes, thinking it would offer protection while they gazed at last week’s solar eclipse (which was a partial eclipse in the Golden State). However, this was a bad idea: sunscreen doesn’t protect your eyes if you look at the sun, and it can sting and irritate your eyes, as well. [Read more about this sunscreen debacle]

Researchers found that Myrmoteras ants' jaws work differently than those of any other known ant.

Researchers found that Myrmoteras ants’ jaws work differently than those of any other known ant.

Credit: Steve Shattuck

This is a cool party trick: The jaws of Myrmoteras ants can snap shut in about half a millisecond. What’s more, these ants’ jaws are unique, and work differently than those of other known ant species. [Read more about these spectacular, superfast ants]

A prehistoric human skeleton in the Chan Hol Cave near Tulúm on Mexico's Yucatán peninsula.

A prehistoric human skeleton in the Chan Hol Cave near Tulúm on Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula.

Credit: Tom Poole/Liquid Junge Lab

Cryptic divers stole what may be among the oldest human skeletons in North America. The skeleton was found in an underwater cavern on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula five years ago. Although robbers stole most of it, scientists are studying a few bones the robbers missed. [Read more about the looted, prehistoric skeleton]

Artificial intelligence provides an offbeat perspective on what lies ahead for the characters of "Game of Thrones."

Artificial intelligence provides an offbeat perspective on what lies ahead for the characters of “Game of Thrones.”

Credit: HBO

A software engineer has programmed artificial intelligence (AI) to write a new “Game of Thrones” book using the characters and style from George R.R. Martin’s hit “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. But the AI’s effort might still have a ways to go before it becomes a best-seller, especially when you take this sentence it wrote into account: “Jaime killed Cersei and was cold and full of words, and Jon thought he was the wolf now.” [Read more about the “Game of Thrones” AI]

Want more weird science news and discoveries? Check out these and other “Strange News” stories on Live Science!

Original article on Live Science.