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Space Infrared Telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics (SPICA), the cryogenic infrared space telescope recently pre-selected for a ‘Phase A’ concept study as one of the three remaining candidates for European Space Agency (ESA's) fifth medium class (M5) mission, is foreseen to include a far-infrared polarimetric imager [SPICA-POL, now called B-fields with BOlometers and Polarizers (B-BOP)], which would offer a unique opportunity to resolve major issues in our understanding of the nearby, cold magnetised Universe. This paper presents an overview of the main science drivers for B-BOP, including high dynamic range polarimetric imaging of the cold interstellar medium (ISM) in both our Milky Way and nearby galaxies. Thanks to a cooled telescope, B-BOP will deliver wide-field 100–350
m images of linearly polarised dust emission in Stokes Q and U with a resolution, signal-to-noise ratio, and both intensity and spatial dynamic ranges comparable to those achieved by Herschel images of the cold ISM in total intensity (Stokes I). The B-BOP 200
m images will also have a factor
30 higher resolution than Planck polarisation data. This will make B-BOP a unique tool for characterising the statistical properties of the magnetised ISM and probing the role of magnetic fields in the formation and evolution of the interstellar web of dusty molecular filaments giving birth to most stars in our Galaxy. B-BOP will also be a powerful instrument for studying the magnetism of nearby galaxies and testing Galactic dynamo models, constraining the physics of dust grain alignment, informing the problem of the interaction of cosmic rays with molecular clouds, tracing magnetic fields in the inner layers of protoplanetary disks, and monitoring accretion bursts in embedded protostars.
The COllaborative project of Development of Anthropometrical measures in Twins (CODATwins) project is a large international collaborative effort to analyze individual-level phenotype data from twins in multiple cohorts from different environments. The main objective is to study factors that modify genetic and environmental variation of height, body mass index (BMI, kg/m2) and size at birth, and additionally to address other research questions such as long-term consequences of birth size. The project started in 2013 and is open to all twin projects in the world having height and weight measures on twins with information on zygosity. Thus far, 54 twin projects from 24 countries have provided individual-level data. The CODATwins database includes 489,981 twin individuals (228,635 complete twin pairs). Since many twin cohorts have collected longitudinal data, there is a total of 1,049,785 height and weight observations. For many cohorts, we also have information on birth weight and length, own smoking behavior and own or parental education. We found that the heritability estimates of height and BMI systematically changed from infancy to old age. Remarkably, only minor differences in the heritability estimates were found across cultural–geographic regions, measurement time and birth cohort for height and BMI. In addition to genetic epidemiological studies, we looked at associations of height and BMI with education, birth weight and smoking status. Within-family analyses examined differences within same-sex and opposite-sex dizygotic twins in birth size and later development. The CODATwins project demonstrates the feasibility and value of international collaboration to address gene-by-exposure interactions that require large sample sizes and address the effects of different exposures across time, geographical regions and socioeconomic status.
Estimating the feed intake of grazing herbivores is critical for determining their nutrition, overall productivity and utilization of grassland resources. A 17-day indoor feeding experiment was conducted to evaluate the potential use of Medicago sativa as a natural supplement for estimating the total feed intake of sheep. A total of 16 sheep were randomly assigned to four diets (four sheep per diet) containing a known amount of M. sativa together with up to seven forages common to typical steppes. The diets were: diet 1, M. sativa + Leymus chinensis + Puccinellia distans; diet 2, species in diet 1 + Phragmites australis; diet 3, species in diet 2 + Chenopodium album + Elymus sibiricus; and diet 4, species in diet 3 + Artemisia scoparia + Artemisia tanacetifolia. After faecal marker concentrations were corrected by individual sheep recovery, treatment mean recovery or overall recovery, the proportions of M. sativa and other dietary forages were estimated from a combination of alkanes and long-chain alcohols using a least-square procedure. Total intake was the ratio of the known intake of M. sativa to its estimated dietary proportion. Each dietary component intake was obtained using total intake and the corresponding dietary proportions. The estimated values were compared with actual values to assess the estimation accuracy. The results showed that M. sativa exhibited a distinguishable marker pattern in comparison to the other dietary forage species. The accuracy of the dietary composition estimates was significantly (P < 0.001) affected by both diet diversity and the faecal recovery method. The proportion of M. sativa and total intake across all diets could be accurately estimated using the individual sheep or the treatment mean recovery methods. The largest differences between the estimated and observed total intake were 2.6 g and 19.2 g, respectively, representing only 0.4% and 2.6% of the total intake. However, they were significantly (P < 0.05) biased for most diets when using the overall recovery method. Due to the difficulty in obtaining individual sheep recovery under field conditions, treatment mean recovery is recommended. This study suggests that M. sativa, a natural roughage instead of a labelled concentrate, can be utilized as a dietary supplement to accurately estimate the total feed intake of sheep indoors and further indicates that it has potential to be used in steppe grassland of northern China, where the marker patterns of M. sativa differ markedly from commonly occurring plant species.
The Beck’s Petrel Pseudobulweria beckii is a ‘Critically Endangered’ seabird whose breeding sites remain unknown. Historic observations suggest the species’ distribution is concentrated in the Bismarck Archipelago and particularly southern New Ireland. Over the course of two research expeditions in 2016 and 2017 we used on-land and at-sea observations, local interviews and satellite telemetry to understand the distribution of the species, its at-sea movements and potential breeding locations. Land-based and at-sea observations indicated that the area of Silur Bay in southern New Ireland was a significant site for Beck’s Petrel with numbers of birds increasing near shore prior to dusk and birds observed in spotlights over land. A local population is estimated to be in the low thousands. In 2017 a single Beck’s was captured at sea, fitted with a satellite transmitter and tracked for eight months. This bird maintained a core distribution off the south-east coast of New Ireland and north of Bougainville for 122 days. During the tracking period, the bird was located over land at night seven times; predominantly over southern New Ireland, where the signal was also lost for extended periods suggesting occupancy of an underground burrow. In August the bird migrated 1,400 km to a core pelagic habitat north of West Papua before the signal was eventually lost. Our combination of land- and sea-based observations and analysis of behaviour from satellite tracking supports the conclusion that a breeding site for Beck’s Petrel lies in the inland mountains of southern New Ireland and most likely in the high-altitude zone (> 2000 m) of the Hans Meyer Range. Further investigations are required to determine the exact location of breeding colonies in the mountains of southern New Ireland and the importance of a potential west Papuan non-breeding pelagic habitat for the species.
Laser–solid interactions are highly suited as a potential source of high energy X-rays for nondestructive imaging. A bright, energetic X-ray pulse can be driven from a small source, making it ideal for high resolution X-ray radiography. By limiting the lateral dimensions of the target we are able to confine the region over which X-rays are produced, enabling imaging with enhanced resolution and contrast. Using constrained targets we demonstrate experimentally a
X-ray source, improving the image quality compared to unconstrained foil targets. Modelling demonstrates that a larger sheath field envelope around the perimeter of the constrained targets increases the proportion of electron current that recirculates through the target, driving a brighter source of X-rays.
A series of nanostructured Fe/Ag metal films were produced at various substrate temperatures to determine their magnetic characteristics. The magnetic coercivity was found to increase with the diffracting-particle size which is process controlled. The films produced at low substrate temperature (<200°C) consisted of small metallic clusters of Ag (<100 Å). As the substrate temperature was increased, the films exhibited increased crystallinity and larger diffracting-particle size. The position of the maximum in the particlesize distribution function and the width of the function increased with substrate temperature.
Music or other background sounds are often played in barns as environmental enrichment for animals on farms or to mask sudden disruptive noises. Previous studies looking at the effects of this practice on non-human animal well-being and productivity have found contradictory results. However, there is still a lack of discussion on whether piglets have the ability to distinguish different types of music. In this study, we exposed piglets to different music conditions to investigate whether the piglets preferred certain music types, in which case those types would have the potential to be used as environmental enrichment. In total, 30 piglets were tested for music type preference to determine whether growing pigs respond differently to different types of music. We used music from two families of instruments (S: string, W: wind) and with two tempos (S: slow, 65 beats/min (bpm); F: fast, 200 bpm), providing four music-type combinations (SS: string-slow; SF: string-fast; WS: wind-slow; WF: wind-fast). The piglets were given a choice between two chambers, one with no music and the other with one of the four types of music, and their behaviour was observed. The results showed that SS and WF music significantly increased residence time (P<0.01) compared with the other music conditions. Compared with the control group (with no music), the different music conditions led to different behavioural responses, where SS music significantly increased lying (P<0.01) and exploration behaviour (P<0.01); SF music significantly increased tail-wagging behaviour (P<0.01); WS music significantly increased exploration (P<0.01); and WF music significantly increased walking, lying, standing and exploration (all P<0.01). The results also showed that musical instruments and tempo had little effect on most of the behaviours. Fast-tempo music significantly increased walking (P=0.02), standing (P<0.01) and tail wagging (P=0.04) compared with slow-tempo music. In conclusion, the results of this experiment show that piglets are more sensitive to tempo than to musical instruments in their response to musical stimulation and seem to prefer SS and WF music to the other two types. The results also suggest a need for further research on the effect of music types on animals.
A multichannel calorimeter system is designed and constructed which is capable of delivering single-shot and broad-band spectral measurement of terahertz (THz) radiation generated in intense laser–plasma interactions. The generation mechanism of backward THz radiation (BTR) is studied by using the multichannel calorimeter system in an intense picosecond laser–solid interaction experiment. The dependence of the BTR energy and spectrum on laser energy, target thickness and pre-plasma scale length is obtained. These results indicate that coherent transition radiation is responsible for the low-frequency component (
1 THz) of BTR. It is also observed that a large-scale pre-plasma primarily enhances the high-frequency component (
3 THz) of BTR.
Good canopy structure is essential for optimal maize (Zea mays L.) production. However, creating appropriate maize canopy structure can be difficult, because the characteristics of individual plants are altered by changes in plant age, density and interactions with neighbouring plants. The objective of the current study was to find a reliable method for building good maize canopy structure by analysing changes in canopy structure, light distribution and grain yield (GY). A modern maize cultivar (ZhengDan958) was planted at 12 densities ranging from 1.5 to 18 plants/m2 at two field locations in Xinjiang, China. At the silking stage (R1), plant and ear height increased with plant density as well as leaf area index (LAI), whereas leaf area per plant decreased logarithmically. The fraction of light intercepted by the plant (F) increased with increasing plant density, but the light extinction coefficient (K) decreased linearly from 0.61 to 0.39. Taking the optimum value of F (95%) as an example, and using measured values of K for each plant density at R1 and the equation from Beer's law, the corresponding (theoretical) LAI for each plant density was calculated and optimum plant density (9.72 plants/m2) obtained by calculating the difference between theoretical LAIs and actual observations. Further analysis showed that plant density ranging from 10.64 to 11.55 plants/m2 yielded a stable GY range. Therefore, taking into account the persistence time for maximum LAI, the plant density required to obtain an ideal GY maize canopy structure should be increased by 10–18% from 9.72 plants/m2.
Recent studies indicate that early postnatal period is a critical window for gut microbiota manipulation to optimise the immunity and body growth. This study investigated the effects of maternal faecal microbiota orally administered to neonatal piglets after birth on growth performance, selected microbial populations, intestinal permeability and the development of intestinal mucosal immune system. In total, 12 litters of crossbred newborn piglets were selected in this study. Litter size was standardised to 10 piglets. On day 1, 10 piglets in each litter were randomly allotted to the faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) and control groups. Piglets in the FMT group were orally administrated with 2ml faecal suspension of their nursing sow per day from the age of 1 to 3 days; piglets in the control group were treated with the same dose of a placebo (0.1M potassium phosphate buffer containing 10% glycerol (vol/vol)) inoculant. The experiment lasted 21 days. On days 7, 14 and 21, plasma and faecal samples were collected for the analysis of growth-related hormones and cytokines in plasma and lipocalin-2, secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA), selected microbiota and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in faeces. Faecal microbiota transplantation increased the average daily gain of piglets during week 3 and the whole experiment period. Compared with the control group, the FMT group had increased concentrations of plasma growth hormone and IGF-1 on days 14 and 21. Faecal microbiota transplantation also reduced the incidence of diarrhoea during weeks 1 and 3 and plasma concentrations of zonulin, endotoxin and diamine oxidase activities in piglets on days 7 and 14. The populations of Lactobacillus spp. and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and the concentrations of faecal and plasma acetate, butyrate and total SCFAs in FMT group were higher than those in the control group on day 21. Moreover, the FMT piglets have higher concentrations of plasma transforming growth factor-β and immunoglobulin G, and faecal sIgA than the control piglets on day 21. These findings indicate that early intervention with maternal faecal microbiota improves growth performance, decreases intestinal permeability, stimulates sIgA secretion, and modulates gut microbiota composition and metabolism in suckling piglets.
Phenoloxidase (PO) plays a key role in melanin biosynthesis during insect development. Here, we isolated the 2310-bp full-length cDNA of PPO1 from Zeugodacus tau, a destructive horticultural pest. qRT-polymerase chain reaction showed that the ZtPPO1 transcripts were highly expressed during larval–prepupal transition and in the haemolymph. When the larvae were fed a 1.66% kojic acid (KA)-containing diet, the levels of the ZtPPO1 transcripts significantly increased by 2.79- and 3.39-fold in the whole larvae and cuticles, respectively, while the corresponding PO activity was significantly reduced; in addition, the larval and pupal durations were significantly prolonged; pupal weights were lowered; and abnormal phenotypes were observed. An in vitro inhibition experiment indicated that KA was an effective competitive inhibitor of PO in Z. tau. Additionally, the functional analysis showed that 20E could significantly up-regulate the expression of ZtPPO1, induce lower pupal weight, and advance pupation. Knockdown of the ZtPPO1 gene by RNAi significantly decreased mRNA levels after 24 h and led to low pupation rates and incomplete pupae with abnormal phenotypes during the larval-pupal interim period. These results proved that PO is important for the normal growth of Z. tau and that KA can disrupt the development of this pest insect.
This study was designed to explore the association between undernutrition in the growth period and cardiovascular risk factors in a middle-aged Chinese population. A total of 1756 subjects, aged 45–60 years, were invited to participate in the Hefei Nutrition and Health Study and divided into three groups according to their self-reported animal food intake in the growth period. Group 1, Group 2 and Group 3 were defined as undernutrition, nutritional improvement and the good nutrition group, respectively. In the three groups, the subjects in Groups 1 and 2 had more oil and salt intake (P<0.001), and less eggs and milk intake (P<0.001), when compared with the subjects in Group 3. After adjusting for age, education, smoking status and other confounding factors, it was found that male participants who experienced nutritional improvement before age 18 had higher risk of hypertension [odds ratio (OR)=1.68; 95% confidence intervals (CI): 1.05, 2.69] than those with good nutrition, and female participants with undernutrition (OR=1.52; 95% CI: 1.01, 2.29) and nutritional improvement (OR=1.68; 95% CI: 1.04, 2.69) before age 18 had a higher risk of hypertension than those with good nutrition. For diabetes, obesity, hypercholesterolemia and hypertriglyceridemia, our results did not found difference among the three groups both in male and female. Our findings indicated that nutritional deficiency in childhood was associated with bad dietary behaviors and a significantly increased risk of hypertension in middle age. Therefore, early adequate nutrition is very important for the prevention of non-communicable diseases later.
Background: Heterozygous loss-of-function mutations in the synaptic scaffolding gene SHANK2 are strongly associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, their impact on the function of human neurons is unknown. Derivation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) from affected individuals permits generation of live neurons to answer this question. Methods: We generated iPSCs by reprogramming dermal fibroblasts of neurotypic and ASD-affected donors. To isolate the effect of SHANK2, we used CRISPR/Cas9 to knock out SHANK2 in control iPSCs and correct a heterozygous nonsense mutation in ASD-affected donor iPSCs. We then derived cortical neurons from SOX1+ neural precursor cells differentiated from these iPSCs. Using a novel assay that overcomes line-to-line variability, we compared neuronal morphology, total synapse number, and electrophysiological properties between SHANK2 mutants and controls. Results: Relative to controls, SHANK2 mutant neurons have increased dendrite complexity, dendrite length, total synapse number (1.5-2-fold), and spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic current (sEPSC) frequency (3-7.6-fold). Conclusions: ASD-associated heterozygous loss-of-function mutations in SHANK2 increase synaptic connectivity among human neurons by increasing synapse number and sEPSC frequency. This is partially supported by increased dendrite length and complexity, providing evidence that SHANK2 functions as a suppressor of dendrite branching during neurodevelopment.
Background: To determine whether exosomal microRNAs (miRNAs) in CSF of patients with FTD can serve as diagnostic biomarkers, we assessed miRNA expression in the Genetic FTD Initiative (GENFI) cohort and in sporadic FTD. Methods: GENFI participants were either carriers of a pathogenic mutation or at risk of carrying a mutation because a first-degree relative was a symptomatic mutation carrier. Exosomes were isolated from CSF of 23 -pre-symptomatic and 15 symptomatic mutation carriers, and 11 healthy non-mutation carriers. Expression of miRNAs was measured using qPCR arrays. MiRNAs differentially expressed in symptomatic compared to pre-symptomatic mutation carriers were evaluated in 17 patients with sporadic FTD, 13 patients with sporadic Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and 10 healthy controls (HCs). Results: In the GENFI cohort, miR-204-5p and miR-632 were significantly decreased in symptomatic compared to pre-symptomatic mutation carriers. Decrease of miR-204-5p and miR-632 revealed receiver operator characteristics with an area of 0.89 [90% CI: 0.79-0.98] and 0.81 [90% CI: 0.68-0.93], and when combined an area of 0.93 [90% CI: 0.87-0.99]. In sporadic FTD, only miR-632 was significantly decreased compared to sporadic AD and HCs. Decrease of miR-632 revealed an area of 0.89 [90% CI: 0.80-0.98]. Conclusions: Exosomal miR-204-5p and miR-632 have potential as diagnostic biomarkers for genetic FTD and miR-632 also for sporadic FTD.
Giant electromagnetic pulses (EMP) generated during the interaction of high-power lasers with solid targets can seriously degrade electrical measurements and equipment. EMP emission is caused by the acceleration of hot electrons inside the target, which produce radiation across a wide band from DC to terahertz frequencies. Improved understanding and control of EMP is vital as we enter a new era of high repetition rate, high intensity lasers (e.g. the Extreme Light Infrastructure). We present recent data from the VULCAN laser facility that demonstrates how EMP can be readily and effectively reduced. Characterization of the EMP was achieved using B-dot and D-dot probes that took measurements for a range of different target and laser parameters. We demonstrate that target stalk geometry, material composition, geodesic path length and foil surface area can all play a significant role in the reduction of EMP. A combination of electromagnetic wave and 3D particle-in-cell simulations is used to inform our conclusions about the effects of stalk geometry on EMP, providing an opportunity for comparison with existing charge separation models.