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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) happens when there’s a bump or blow to the head, or when something (like a bullet) goes into the head. Every year, about 1.7 million people, including soldiers, auto accident victims and athletes sustain these injuries, which interfere with the brain’s normal functioning.


A concussion is a mild TBI. Most people with concussions just have symptoms, such as having a hard time thinking clearly and dizziness, for a few days or weeks. But severe TBI can be life-threatening or permanently life-altering. People with severe TBI can have attention and memory, movement, hearing and vision problems. Their moods and emotions also can suffer.


Currently, no treatment exists for TBI, but in a recent paper in ACS Nano, researchers report progress on a possible therapy involving nanoparticles — particles so small that a thousand of them would fit across the width of a human hair.

Thomas Kent, James Tour and colleagues explain that TBI disrupts the supply of oxygen-rich blood to the brain. With the brain so oxygen-needy — accounting for only 2 percent of a person’s weight, but claiming 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply — even a mild TBI can have serious consequences.

A reduced blood flow plus resuscitation efforts result in a build-up of free-radicals, which can kill brain cells. Despite years of far-ranging efforts, no effective treatment has emerged for TBI — that is, until now.

In the paper, the researchers describe the development and successful laboratory testing of nanoparticles, called PEG-HCCs. In laboratory rats, the nanoparticles acted like antioxidants, rapidly restoring blood flow to the brain following resuscitation after TBI. The particles are nontoxic and do not require refrigeration, so they could be used in the field.


“This finding is of major importance for improving patient health under clinically relevant conditions during resuscitative care, and it has direct implications for the current [TBI] war-fighter victims in the Afghanistan and Middle East theaters,” they say.


“Antioxidant Carbon Particles Improve Cerebrovascular Dysfunction Following Traumatic Brain Injury,” ACS Nano




Advance could help victims of traumatic brain injuries such as soldiers injured in explosions, as well as athletes and accident victims.
Credit: U.S. Army

Many Americans can still remember the high prices, long lines and rationing of the 1973 oil crisis. OPEC’s embargo only lasted five months, but the 1974 National Maximum Speed Law intended to reduce fuel consumption kept speed limits on many interstates at 55 miles per hour (mph) for decades. While the benefits of lower speed limits for cars are still up for debate, researchers say speed limits on cargo ships could help reduce the impact of marine shipping on Earth’s climate and human health.

In a study published in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology, David R. Crocker III and colleagues at the University of California, Riverside, found that 14 mph speed limits on container ships sailing near ports and coastlines would cut air pollution by up to 70 percent.

Their paper explains that while marine shipping is the most efficient way to move goods around the world, it’s also a significant source of air pollutants. The more than 100,000 ships – some of them longer than three football fields – that move 90 percent of the world’s cargo burn low-grade fuels that produce large amounts of air pollutants. Among them are carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas; nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides that contribute to acid rain; and particulate matter that can cause respiratory and other health problems.

A ship’s speed is directly proportional to the cube of its fuel consumption, so if a ship revs up its engines to go twice as fast, it burns eight times more fuel. That means that even small reductions in speed can significantly reduce air pollution.

Crocker’s team showed that a 14 mph speed limit could reduce container ships’ emissions of carbon dioxide by about 60 percent and nitrogen oxides by 55 percent, compared to emissions at their normal cruising speeds between 25 and 29 mph. Particulate matter emissions fell by nearly 70 percent.

The group hopes that imposing these speed limits on vessels near ports and coastlines could significantly reduce their pollution and protect the health of people living in those areas.

Do you think speed limits on ships could be an effective way to limit their consequences on human health and climate? Should we think again about lower speed limits for cars and other vehicles?


“Greenhouse Gas and Criteria Emission Benefits through Reduction of Vessel Speed at Sea,” Environmental Science & Technology

Speed limits on container ships near ports and coastlines could cut air pollution by up to 70 percent.
Credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

If you look up the definition of cheese in a dictionary, you really should find the word “ubiquitous.” You won’t, alas, but you should because this dairy product is such an important ingredient in so many yummy dishes. Imagine mac ‘n’ cheese without the cheddar. Picture an omelet without cheese. Even filled with red or green peppers and onions, an omelet without the cheese, it’s just not the reason why you came to the table.

For cheese-lovers, probably the only thing as unpalatable as an omelet without their favorite dairy product is one made with a cheese that is not what it is billed as. It’s just not right. It’s cheesy. And this is where scientists enter center stage to set things straight. A prime target is that delicious buffalo mozzarella you find in caprese salads, accompanied by nice ripe tomatoes, basil and balsamic vinegar. Some gourmet restaurants use it on pizza.

It seems researchers have developed a new test to determine if this pricey buffalo mozzarella is the real article. The problem is that while
mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP is made from the milk of water buffaloes, the producers of some alleged buffalo mozzarella actually use cow’s milk to create a much less costly, bogus product. More than 100,000 pounds of buffalo mozzarella are imported by stores and restaurants in the United States each year. This doesn’t rival the 3 billion pounds of “standard” mozzarella consumed by Americans, but at as much as $30 a pound in the specialty shops, it is significant.

Barbara van Asch and colleagues explain that expensive dairy products, such as imported specialty cheeses, featuring the country of origin on the label, are among the prime candidates for doctoring by devious manufacturers. These manufacturers may substitute a cheaper ingredient for a more costly one or simply cut back on the amount of high-quality ingredients.

Studies show that the problem is widespread, with a variety of fake dairy products sold in China, India, Italy and Spain. Unfortunately, to date, tests have not been able to detect cow, goat, sheep and buffalo milks at the same time.

So the scientists have developed a test for 96 dairy products commercially available in Europe, including cheeses, butters, milks and yogurts. The test accurately determined that about 12 percent of the products did not contain ingredients listed on the labels, researchers
reported in ACS’ Journal of
Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

They found that, for example, one product label indicated that it was made from 100 percent sheep milk. Their new test clearly showed otherwise: It also contained cows’ and goats’ milk.

“A New Method for the Simultaneous Identification of Cow, Sheep, Goat and Water Buffalo in Dairy Products by Analysis of Short Species-Specific mtDNA Targets” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry







Credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock