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New superconducting material could be used in quantum computers

A group of researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has discovered that a particular superconducting material, the compound uranium ditelluride, or UTe2, could prove very useful in quantum computers to support the so-called quantum coherence.

The latter fails when, precisely in quantum computers, when the qubits cannot function for the time necessary to terminate the calculation. Quantum coherence, in quantum computers, is difficult to maintain due to various environmental disturbances, even the weakest.

According to researchers at the US institute, this new superconducting material could finally make it possible to build effective quantum logic circuits thanks to its resistance to magnetic fields, a rare thing among superconducting materials.

“This is potentially the silicon of the quantum information era,” reports Nick Butch, one of the designers on the research team who made the discovery.

The tiny qubits built with this material could be easily shielded and protected from the surrounding environment, especially from the rest of the computer components.

The results of the study were published in Science.

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Virtual reality can counteract pain according to a new study

More and more research underlines how the technology linked to virtual reality can be useful in the therapeutic field and in general of medicine so much so that we already talk about “virtual therapeutic reality.” A new study, published in PLOS ONE, describes how virtual reality can be used to treat acute pain.

Researchers tested virtual reality on more than 60 patients admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles between November 2016 and July 2017. Patients were immersed in 21 different virtual reality experiences such as simulated flights or games.

A control group was also used whose members were instead placed in front of televisions that broadcast special videos for guided relaxation, such as poetry reading.
Researchers noted a significantly greater decrease in pain scores in people using virtual reality than in the control group.

The positive effects of virtual reality on pain also remained significant both at the beginning of the trial and after 48-72 hours of use. In general, patients reported greater satisfaction with the virtual reality experience than television viewing.

Brennan Spiegel, a researcher at Cedars-Sinai and one of the authors of the research together with other colleagues, states in relation to these results: “The evidence reveals that virtual reality therapy can reduce pain signals through a variety of mechanisms. In this study, the largest of its kind to date, hospitalized patients with pain were randomized between VR or a TV relaxation program. Virtual reality has outperformed the control conditions and demonstrated benefits for several days of use.”

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Scientists reverse aging brain cells in rats

A group of researchers from the Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute of the University of Cambridge declares, through a study published in Nature, to have reversed the aging process in brain stem cells of rats.

These are results that, according to the same press release concerning the new research, could have enormous implications for the human aging process and the therapies we put in place to combat it. The researchers analyzed, in particular, the oligodendrocyte progenitor (OPC) cells of rats, a type of brain stem cells whose function decreases with age, which also happens in humans.

The researchers were able to make the loss of function of these cells reversible in elderly rats by transplanting new ones, naturally of the same type, from the brains of younger rats.

To the surprise of the researchers themselves, after the transplantation of these brain cells, the old ones seemed to become younger, behaving like young transplanted cells that were naturally more vigorous.

At this point the researchers removed a protein (called Piezo1) on the surface of old brain stem cells, inducing the latter to perceive the softer and more spongy surrounding environment, which is more like the brain of a young mouse.

This led to the same effect as with the transplant: the older cells “rejuvenated” and returned to their normal regenerative function.

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Exposure to lavender oil contributes to abnormal breast growth in girls

Exposure to lavender essential oil may be linked to normal breast growth in girls according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

This is the first study to report abnormal breast growth in adolescents in relation to lavender exposure although previous studies had associated breast growth in male boys with the use of lavender-containing fragrances.

According to the experiments conducted by the researchers behind this study, breast growth in both girls and boys was interrupted after the interruption of the use of perfumed products containing lavender. The researchers also determined that some components in essential oils may block the testosterone of boys or mimic estrogen in girls and this, according to the researchers, could explain the observed breast growth in the cases they analyzed.

The study was conducted by J. Tyler Ramsey, a second-year medical student at Campbell University as well as a researcher at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

Ramsey himself analyzes the results: “The public should be aware of these results and consider all the tests before deciding when to use essential oils. It is also important that physicians are aware that lavender and tea tree oils contain tea endocrine-disrupting chemicals and should be considered in assessing premature breast development in girls and boys and in children swelling of breast tissue in adult men.”