Friday December 6, 2019
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Forget global warming, Artificial Photosynthesis breakthrough is here to save us

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

With increasing levels of harmful gases being released into the environment, the future, indeed, looks bleak.

Well, what about if we could ‘revamp’ those harmful gases into some highly useful things, like biofuels  or plastics?

The good thing is that a group of researchers have essentially taken cues from Mother Nature itself, and thus accomplished the impossible!

By the way, how have the scientists managed to achieve such a remarkable feat?

Here’s how:

The researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, have developed the revolutionary system which essentially mimics photosynthesis.

The system collects Carbon Dioxide and other greenhouse gases before they are let loose into the atmosphere and converts them into acetate, a basic building block for organic compounds.

Then, the acetate can be used to manufacture a diverse array of chemicals, drugs and alternative fuels.

All this is done through creation of an ‘artificial forest’ of Silicon and Titanium Dioxide nanowires, which are seeded with bacterial populations.

Scientists believe that system has the potential to revolutionize the chemical and oil industry. The system can produce chemicals and fuels in a totally renewable way, rather than extracting them from deep below the ground.

So, is it time to say goodbye to greenhouse gases?

As of now, the system boasts of an efficiency of 0.38 per cent, close to the natural process of photosynthesis. However, researchers believe that soon they would manage to increase it to 3 per cent. And, the system would be embraced on a large scale once it begins to gain traction.

“Once we can reach a conversion efficiency of 10 per cent in a cost-effective manner, the technology should be commercially viable,” said Christopher Chang, a chemist and biosynthesis expert.

The environment can hopefully breathe easy now.

Next Story

Research Finds That Drug Can Curb Dementia’s Delusions

About 8 million Americans have dementia, and studies suggest that up to 30% of them develop psychosis.

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Television actor Barbara Windsor and her husband Scott Mitchell talks about Drugs
Television actor Barbara Windsor and her husband Scott Mitchell pose with a placard in front of Downing Street ahead of a meeting with Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London, Britain. VOA

A drug that curbs delusions in Parkinson’s patients did the same for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in a study that was stopped early because the benefit seemed clear.

If regulators agree, the drug could become the first treatment specifically for dementia-related psychosis and the first new medicine for Alzheimer’s in nearly two decades. It targets some of the most troubling symptoms that patients and caregivers face — hallucinations that often lead to anxiety, aggression, and physical and verbal abuse.

Results were disclosed Wednesday at a conference in San Diego.

Unmet need for treatment

“This would be a very important advance,” said one independent expert, Dr. Howard Fillit, chief science officer of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.

Although the field is focused on finding a cure for dementia and preventing future cases, “there is a huge unmet need for better treatment” for those who have it now, said Maria Carrillo, the Alzheimer’s Association’s chief science officer.

The drug is pimavanserin, a daily pill sold as Nuplazid by Acadia Pharmaceuticals Inc. It was approved for Parkinson’s-related psychosis in 2016 and is thought to work by blocking a brain chemical that seems to spur delusions.

Dementia Drugs
Dementia is a syndrome in which there is deterioration in memory, thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday activities. Pixabay

About 8 million Americans have dementia, and studies suggest that up to 30% of them develop psychosis.

“It’s terrifying,” said Dr. Jeffrey Cummings of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas. “You believe that people might be trying to hurt you. You believe that people are stealing from you. You believe that your spouse is unfaithful to you. Those are the three most common false beliefs.”

How the study worked

He consults for Acadia and helped lead the study, which included about 400 people with dementia and psychosis. All were given a low dose of the drug for three months, and those who seemed to respond or benefit were then split into two groups. Half continued on the drug and the others were given dummy pills for six months or until they had a relapse or worsening of symptoms. Neither the patients nor their doctors knew who was getting what.

Independent monitors stopped the study when they saw that those on dummy pills were more than twice as likely as those on the drug to relapse or worsen — 28% versus nearly 13%.

There were relatively few serious side effects — 5% in the drug group and 4% in the others. Headaches and urinary tract infections were more common among those on the drug. Two deaths occurred, but study leaders said neither was related to the drug.

The drug could become the first treatment for dementia
The drug could become the first treatment specifically for dementia-related psychosis. Pixabay

Carrillo said the study was small, but the drug’s effect seemed large, and it’s not known whether the federal Food and Drug Administration would want more evidence to approve a new use.

Risk of death

Current anti-psychotic medicines have some major drawbacks and are not approved for dementia patients.

“They’re often used off label because we have very few other options,” Fillit said.

ALSO READ: Researchers Associate Social Media Use to Eating Disorder in Adolescents

All carry warnings that they can raise the risk of death in elderly patients, as does Nuplazid.

Cost could be an issue — about $3,000 a month. What patients pay can vary depending on insurance coverage. (VOA)