Scientific News

Nuts protect the intestine from ulcerative colitis in mice

Another study has confirmed the positive properties concerning nuts. The new research, published on Nutrients and conducted by a group of researchers from the Center for Molecular Oncology of the University of Connecticut, emphasizes in particular the positive effects of walnuts on ulcerative colitis.

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that sees chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The two researchers Daniel Rosenberg Masako Nakanishi conducted some experiments on rodents and found that in a particular model of colitis, one in which there is a lesion of the colonic mucosa caused by the ulcerogenic dextran sodium sulfate agent, the nuts themselves could perform a real action of contrast.

Rodents were given a daily amount of nuts representing 14% of the entire daily diet, an amount equivalent to about 20-25 walnuts for a human being. After two weeks of this treatment, the researchers noticed fewer lesions and generally a repair of the colonic mucosa.

In general, the researchers also noted that the intestinal lesions in mice that ate these amounts of nuts were smaller than in mice that did not eat nuts (both groups had been experimentally induced by ulcerative colitis). They also noted some alterations in fecal and tissue flow as well as various changes in metabolites.

As Rosenberg himself specifies with this research, his team does not intend to suggest that it is necessary to eat 25 nuts a day to counteract ulcerative colitis but still want to find out what those phytochemical active compounds are that in nuts activate this sort of protection of the gastrointestinal tract.

Scientific News

Nuclear reactors for Martian outposts already being tested at NASA

A nuclear reactor that could be used both on the Moon and on Mars to feed human outposts is being designed and could be tested in space in a few years.

The project, called Kilopower, is working on NASA and the US Department of Energy.
According to a statement by Patrick McClure, a test in space with a prototype could be ready to start in three years even if no official statement was issued by NASA or anyone else.

The prototype would be the size of a refrigerator and should naturally be mounted on a rocket. The prototype could supply up to 10 kW of power, a peak that could be enough for eight medium houses here on Earth.

This is not the first time that we think of nuclear energy as a source of energy in space: in the past NASA has used this type of energy, via radioisotope thermoelectric generators, as regards the propulsion of various space vehicles, such as the probes Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 of NASA, or for the operation of the rovers, including Curiosity, the NASA rover present on Mars for several years.

Several ground tests have already been carried out and the system seems to work but of course, only the tests in space will have the last word. The generators of these nuclear reactors convert the heat emitted by the radioactive decay of plutonium-238 into electricity.

A lunar or Martian human outpost will need several kilowatts of power constantly available, at least 40 kW according to scientists, to generate electricity for different purposes, for example to purify water, to generate oxygen, to charge the various rovers and means of transport, for heating and for the various research laboratories.

A single reactor would weigh more than 2000 kilograms, most of which represented by shielding. The prototypes built by NASA scientists can last up to 15 years and can generate up to 10 kilowatts of electricity.

This means that at least four of them should be transported to Mars or to the moon to generate the energy needed for a human outpost and that in any case a way must be found to regenerate them or build new ones on the spot.

Scientific News

Hookahs: study highlights health hazards

Health risks regarding hookah use have been highlighted in a new study published on Aerosol Science and Technology by researchers at the University of California at Irvine.

By analyzing the emissions during various sessions of smokers who used hookahs, the researchers noticed the presence of various toxic and harmful chemicals in addition to nicotine. Among the various compounds, they also noted the presence of irritating carbonyl compounds and carbon monoxide.

“And because of the greater volume inhaled for each puff and the longer duration of a smoking session, the hookah often provides a greater dose of these chemicals to the smoker,” says Veronique Perraud, a researcher at the chemistry department of that university.

The research team also investigated the effect of a nicotine-free herbal blend marketed as a healthier alternative to classic tobacco. They discovered that with the latter there were even higher levels of toxic substances present than smoke.

Among the various tools that the researchers used there is also a pair of mass spectrometers, including a unique model designed by the Smith Group at the same university, to accurately measure the chemical composition of the gases and solids emitted during the sessions of smoke with the almost real hookah.

It is a different method than the previous ones to highlight toxic compounds of smoke: the “classic” method sees the collection of samples from a filter at the end of the session. However, this new technique made it possible to carry out measurements during various steps of the session, at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of it: “We were able to demonstrate that a smoker is exposed to a greater quantity of ultrafine particles during the 10 minutes ahead of the rest of the time,” says Perraud herself.

The same scientist also disproves the myth about the use of hookah that should see the water in the bowl filter toxic chemicals providing a sort of protection for smokers: “In the study, we show that this is not the case with most gas and that, probably due to its cooling effect, water actually promotes the formation of ultrafine particles.”