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Mexican Scientist Discovers A Way To Turn Nopal Cactus Into Biodegradable Plastic

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Mexican Scientist Discovers A Way To Turn Nopal Cactus Into Biodegradable Plastic
Photo Credit: BBC

Elias Marat, TMU

As the crisis of plastic waste grows, researchers have looked for various ways to cut down on single-use plastics, with many cities and countries across the world seeking to put an end to plastic bags, straws, and other common products in favor of more sustainable, environmentally sound options.

And at the University of the Valley of Atemajac (UNIVA) which lies just outside of Guadalajara in Mexico’s Jalisco state, chemical engineering professor Sandra Pascoe Ortiz has found a novel alternative to plastic—one based on nopal, or prickly pear cactus, which has long been a national symbol of Mexico and a crucial staple of the Mexican diet.

Pascoe and her students have devised a way to form a new biodegradable plastic using the juice from the edible cactus’ fruit, known as the tuna, to make the innovative new product.

Pascoe told the BBC:

“It’s a non-toxic product. All the materials we use can be ingested both by humans or animals. And they wouldn’t cause any harm.”

The cactus-based plastic is formed out of the juice of the nopal, which contains sugars, pectin, and organic acids that grant it a viscous consistency.

When the juice is blended with a mixture of glycerol, colorants, proteins, natural waxes and decanted to remove the fibre, the formula is then dried out on a hot plate to produce the plastic.

In a separate interview with EFE news agency last year, Pascoe explained how she collaborated with the University of Guadalajara Center for Biological and Agricultural Sciences to measure just how quickly and in which conditions the new biodegradable plastic would break down. Pascoe noted:

“We’ve done very simple degradation tests in the laboratory; for example, we’ve put it in water and we’ve seen that it does break down [but] we still have to do a chemical test to see if it really did completely disintegrate. We’ve also done tests in moist compost-like soil and the material also breaks down.”

The invention could provide a crucial substitute for the commonly used petroleum-based plastics that are choking waterways and ocean life worldwide. Instead, this biodegradable plastic would either harmlessly dissolve or feed sea creatures rather than contributing to their demise.

For the time being, however, the production of the cactus-based plastic is limited to Pascoe’s lab, where she and her students spend time manufacturing the potentially revolutionary substitute.

Her former students have even experimented with using the formula to produce toys for their kids, according to KJZZ.

Michelle Mendoza, who has completed her industrial engineering degree but continues working with Pascoe, explained:

“My daughter loves to buy toys in the markets and then once she played with it one day, she didn’t want it anymore.”

So Mendoza made strawberry-shaped plastics that excited her daughter for a bit, but then met the same fate as the rest of her toys and were discarded after a day in “the same way,” she laughingly said, noting that at least the nopal-based toys can be dissolved in water after three weeks unlike plastic toys.

Professor Sandra Pascoe Ortiz remains hopeful that one day, her biodegradable plastic can be used commercially, although she doesn’t have plans to turn a huge profit and become some sort of bio-plastic tycoon.

Instead, she hopes to simply continue her work as a researcher and reduce the impact of solid waste in Mexico and around the world.

“Maybe I’m too much of an idealist.”

This article (Mexican Scientist Discovers a Way to Turn Nopal Cactus Into Biodegradable Plastic) was originally published at The Mind Unleashed and is re-posted here with permission.

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5 Pioneering Scientists Who Were Spiritual Mystics

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5 Pioneering Scientists Who Were Spiritual Mystics

To excel in science and academia and become a person of significance in those areas requires thorough knowledge of the subject you’re studying. Indeed, being knowledgeable, analytical, and clever are some of the major criteria required to be considered intelligent in our highly detail-oriented and rigorous educational system.

But taking a closer look at what actually drives the success of our most revered minds tells a surprisingly different story.

Here is a list of five of the greatest scientific achievers of our time, who have contributed the most to humanity. While they may fit the above criteria for intelligence, they were also intensely spiritual people.

1. Albert Einstein

Considered by Western society to be one of the smartest men who ever lived, Einstein was a physicist who spent his entire career trying to understand the laws of the universe, eventually making major scientific breakthroughs which have shaped our world ever since. But what our history and science textbooks don’t tell us is that he owes his scientific achievements to things decidedly unscientific.

 “The finest emotion of which we are capable is the mystic emotion. Herein lies the germ of all art and all true science. Anyone to whom this feeling is alien, who is no longer capable of wonderment and lives in a state of fear is a dead man. To know that what is impenetrable for us really exists and manifests itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, whose gross forms alone are intelligible to our poor faculties – this knowledge, this feeling . . . that is the core of the true religious sentiment. In this sense, and in this sense alone, I rank myself among profoundly religious men.”

– Albert Einstein, letter to Hoffman and Dukas, 1946

2. Issac Newton

Issac Newton was the first to discover the laws of motion and the existence of gravity, and developed the worldview that the universe runs like a giant and mechanistic machine. Based on these achievements, it would be easy to assume him a solely rational man, yet of the 10 million words he wrote (almost all of his notes have been found and edited), nearly half are religious. Newton believed he was among the select few chosen by God to relay information about the Bible, and he was obsessed with the divinity of life, as he thought it marked the only way to find out how the universe works. A further 1 million words contain metaphysical writings about the search for immortality and enlightenment through the Philosopher’s Stone. (1)

“Atheism is so senseless & odious to mankind that it never had many professors. Can it be by accident that all birds beasts & men have their right side & left side alike shaped (except in their bowels) & just two eyes & no more on either side the face & just two ears on either side the head & a nose with two holes & no more between the eyes & one mouth under the nose & either two fore leggs or two wings or two arms on the shoulders & two leggs on the hipps one on either side & no more? Whence arises this uniformity in all their outward shapes but from the counsel & contrivance of an Author? Whence is it that the eyes of all sorts of living creatures are transparent to the very bottom & the only transparent members in the body, having on the outside an hard transparent skin, & within transparent juyces with a crystalline Lens in the middle & a pupil before the Lens all of them so truly shaped & fitted for vision, that no Artist can mend them? Did blind chance know that there was light & what was its refraction & fit the eys of all creatures after the most curious manner to make use of it? These & such like considerations always have & ever will prevail with mankind to believe that there is a being who made all things & has all things in his power & who is therfore to be feared.” (2)

– Sir Issac Newton, A short Schem of the true Religion

3. Nikola Tesla

Thanks to the genius of Tesla we have electricity at our fingertips, and many of the new free energy technologies are derived from Tesla’s ideas as well. He is regarded as one of the greatest minds that ever lived, much ahead of his time, but he also explored mysticism extensively, particularly the Eastern Vedic traditions. In fact, he attributed much of his knowledge of the science of nature and energy to the concepts he learned through this research.

“When we speak of man, we have a conception of humanity as a whole, and before applying scientific methods to, the investigation of his movement we must accept this as a physical fact.   These ties cannot be seen, but we can feel them.  I cut myself in the finger, and it pains me: this finger is a part of me.  I see a friend hurt, and it hurts me, too: my friend and I are one. And now I see stricken down an enemy,  I care least for, and it still grieves me.  Does this not prove that each of us is only part of a whole?  The Buddhist expresses it in one way, the Christian in another, but both say the same: We are all one.”

– Nikola Tesla, The Problem Of Increasing Human Energy

4. David Bohm

David Bohm is considered to be one of the most accomplished physicists of the 20th century, noted primarily for his advancements in quantum mechanics. Yet few people knew that he eventually became fed up with orthodox theories of physics, turning instead to Eastern philosophies and spending time with wisdom sages like Jiddu Krishnamurti to look for better answers.

“I would say that in my scientific and philosophical work, my main concern has been with understanding the nature of reality in general and of consciousness in particular as a coherent whole, which is never static or complete, but which is in an unending process of movement and unfoldment.”

– David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order

5. René Descartes

Considered to be the father of modern science and Western philosophy, Descartes’ fascination with the spiritual and the mental (mind-body duality) world led him to create the Groundbreaking theories which have since laid the foundation for modern thinking. But what really started it all for Descartes was the series of dreams he had, in which he claimed angels told him that the universe can be understood through numbers.

“That is why, as soon as I was old enough to emerge from the control of my teachers, I entirely abandoned scholarship. Resolving to seek no knowledge except what I could find in myself or read in the great book of the world, I spent the rest of my youth travelling, visiting courts and armies, mixing with people of different temperaments and ranks, gathering various experiences, testing myself in the situations that luck put me into, and always reflecting on whatever came my way so as to profit from it.”

– René Descartes, Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting one’s Reason and Seeking Truth in the Sciences

What We Can Learn From This

Is it just a coincidence that so many great minds were both scientific and spiritual, or do these connections speak to a deeper truth about humanity? Our educational system is fragmented and compartmentalized. Everything is studied in isolation, despite nothing in life functioning in this way. Ironically, the greatest minds by Western standards were actually the greatest minds by ancient Eastern standards, which treat the whole rather than each part separately.

In our education system and in society as a whole, our culture desperately needs a shift in thinking, to encourage a more interconnected system of ideas, values, and lifestyles, and to foster a growth in creativity and intellectual wholeness.

Additional Sources

1. http://www.wired.com/2014/05/newton-papers-q-and-a/
2. http://www.newtonproject.sussex.ac.uk/view/texts/normalized/THEM00007

This article (5 Pioneering Scientists Who Were Spiritual Mystics) was originally created for Collective Evolution and is published here under Creative Commons.

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A Bio-Artificial Kidney Is Being Developed To End The Need For Dialysis

The team is making progress, but they still have a long way to go.

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A Bio-Artificial Kidney Is Being Developed To End The Need For Dialysis
Photo Credit: Truth Theory

John Vibes, Truth Theory

Roughly two million people around the world are being treated for end-stage renal disease (ESRD), which has led to an urgent shortage of kidneys for transplant.

In 2016, there were only 21,000 donor kidneys available for transplant in the US, but a waiting list of nearly 100,000, resulting in a wait time of five to ten years.

The Kidney Project is a national network that has been cooperating to develop an implantable bio-artificial kidney that could eliminate the need for dialysis.

During a presentation at the American Society of Nephrology Kidney Week in November of 2019, the team announced that UC San Francisco scientists were able to implant a prototype kidney bioreactor containing functional human kidney cells into pigs without causing any harm to the test subjects.

Kidney Project co-lead Shuvo Roy of the UCSF Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine said that this is a key milestone in the development of the technology.

 “This is the first demonstration that kidney cells can be implanted successfully in a large animal without immunosuppression and remain healthy enough to perform their function. This is a key milestone for us. Based on these results, we can now focus on scaling up the bioreactor and combining it with the blood filtration component of the artificial kidney,” Roy said.

The device that is being developed by The Kidney Project contains a blood filtration system called the hemofilter, which removes toxins from the blood by passing it through silicon membranes.

The device also contains a bioreactor, which contains cultured human kidney cells that act like an actual human kidney.

The Kidney Project’s hemofiltration system is currently waiting for the FDA to approve a clinical trial to evaluate its safety.

Roy said that the team is making progress, but they still have a long way to go.

“Advancing a complex cell therapy like this into the clinic will not be a trivial task — for instance; it will require substantial investments in cell production and characterization in controlled GMP facilities to avoid any possibility of contamination. Now we’ve confirmed that we’re on the right track to move forward with these efforts,” Roy said.

By John Vibes | TruthTheory.com | Republished with permission

The views in this article may not reflect editorial policy Collective Spark.

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Remarkable New T-Cell Discovery Can Kill Several Cancer Types In The Lab

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Photo Credit: Science Alert

The discovery of a new kind of immune cell receptor could pave the way for a new type of T-cell cancer therapy that can attack a diverse range of cancers in human patients without requiring tailored treatment.

The researchers behind the discovery emphasise that testing is still at an early stage, having been conducted only in mice and in human cells in the lab, not yet in living patients. But the preliminary results are promising, and suggest we could be on the verge of a significant advancement in T-cell therapies.

To understand why, let’s backtrack a little on what T-cells are, and what T-cell therapies do, because they’re still very much an emerging field of treatment in oncology.

T-cells are a type of white blood cell involved in the function of our immune system. When T-cells are activated by coming into contact with defective or foreign cells in the body, they attack them, helping us fight off infection and disease.

In T-cell therapy – the most common form of which is called CAR-T (for Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cells), scientists hijack and augment this natural function of T-cells to steer them towards tumour cells in particular.

In CAR-T treatments, doctors extract T-cells from patients’ blood, genetically engineering them in the lab to make them specifically identify and target cancer cells. The edited T-cells are then multiplied in the lab before being administered to patients.

Some of the limitations of the CAR-T technique are that the edited T-cells are only able to recognise a few kinds of cancer, and the entire therapy needs to be personalised for different people because of a T-cell receptor (TCR) called human leukocyte antigen (HLA).

HLA is what enables T-cells to detect cancer cells, but it varies between individuals. And that’s where this new discovery comes in.

In the new study, led by scientists at Cardiff University in the UK, researchers used CRISPR–Cas9 screening to discover a new kind of TCR in T-cells: a receptor molecule called MR1.

MR1 functions similarly to HLA in terms of scanning and recognising cancer cells, but one big difference is that, unlike HLA, it doesn’t vary in the human population – which means it could potentially form the basis of a T-cell therapy that works for a much broader range of people (in theory, at least).

We’re not there yet; but preliminary experiments in the lab involving MR1 are indeed promising, although we need to be aware that the results need to be replicated safely in clinical trials before we can confirm this is a treatment suitable for humans.

In lab tests using human cells, the MR1-equipped T-cells “killed the multiple cancer cell lines tested (lung, melanoma, leukaemia, colon, breast, prostate, bone and ovarian) that did not share a common HLA,” the authors write in their paper.

Tests upon mice with leukaemia – in which the animals were injected with the MR1 cells – revealed evidence of cancer regression, and led to the mice living longer than controls.

Right now, we don’t yet know how many types of cancers a technique based on this receptor might treat. That said, the early results certainly suggest a diverse range could be susceptible, according to the study.

If these sorts of effects can be replicated in humans – something the scientists hope to begin testing as early as this year – we could be looking at a bright new future for T-cell treatments, experts say.

This research represents a new way of targeting cancer cells that is really quite exciting, although much more research is needed to understand precisely how it works,” says research and policy director Alasdair Rankin from blood cancer charity Bloodwise, who was not involved in the research.

To that end, the next step for the team – in addition to organising future clinical trials – will be learning more about the mechanisms that enable MR1 to identify cancer cells at a molecular level.

There’s a lot more to learn here before we can truly proclaim this is some kind of universal cancer treatment, but there certainly look to be some exciting discoveries on the horizon.

“Cancer-targeting via MR1-restricted T-cells is an exciting new frontier,” says senior researcher and cancer immunotherapy specialist Andrew Sewell.

“It raises the prospect of .. a single type of T-cell that could be capable of destroying many different types of cancers across the population. Previously nobody believed this could be possible.”

The findings are reported in Nature Immunology.

This article (Remarkable New T-Cell Discovery Can Kill Several Cancer Types In The Lab) was originally created for Science Alert and is published here under Creative Commons.

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Science Says Silence Is Vital For Our Brains

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Science Says Silence Is Vital For Our Brains
Photo Credit: Getty

If you’re the average person, you wake up to the sound of an alarm. That alarm sends you to the bathroom where you quickly get yourself ready for your workday. If you have the time, you might eat something before jumping into your car to listen to music or the radio while you sit in traffic on your way to work.

Once you get there, it’s all people, customers, co-workers, cars, trucks, planes, lawn mowers, construction, phone calls, and tasks for the next 8 hours. These noises that most of us experience in excess send our bodies into stress states, decreasing our quality of life and potentially reducing our lifespan. It appears that noise, in excess, is not healthy for humans. Silence, on the other hand, can have huge benefits, but let’s explore the damage caused by noise before we get to the benefits of silence.

Before we get into the research, I’d like to note that the word ‘noise’ is said to come from the Latin word nausea, or the Latin word noxia, meaning seasickness, sickness, hurt, damage, or injury. Is it any wonder ‘noise’ is not healthy for us?

The Studies

Outside of your anecdotal reflection, there is scientific evidence that supports the negative effects of noise on our health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) examined and quantified its health burden based on a European study that involved 340 million people living in Western Europe. It found that residents were cumulatively losing about a million years off their lives due to noise every year. That’s like one in every three people losing an entire year off their life due to excessive noise!

A study that was published in 2011 in Psychological Science examined the effects Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Professor Gary W. Evans of Cornell University noted that the children who were exposed to noise developed a stress response that caused them to ignore the noise. These children not only ignored harmful noises, but also regular stimuli that are important to pay attention to like speech. Wonder why people have trouble paying attention these days? Perhaps we are exposed to too much noise and too many sounds.

“This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise–even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage–causes stress and is harmful to humans.” – Professor Gary Evans

Going back to anecdotal evidence for a moment, I always find that staying with my friends who live in cities produces a much more uncomfortable situation for myself than when I’m in more quiet situations, or living at my quiet, somewhat isolated home in nature. I always share with friends that the environment of living in a city seems to be unhealthy; not just the air, but the energy, hustle and bustle, and the noise as well. Reading these studies clearly illustrates that it does not appear to be natural or healthy for humans to live or work in loud environments every day.

Noise has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, tinnitus, and loss of sleep. Living in consistently noisy environments will cause you to experience much higher levels of these harmful hormones. Of course, there is something you can do about this should you take action on it, but it requires that–action.

The Benefits of Silence

Again, pointing to anecdotal evidence for a moment, think back to the moments where you were on your own, retreating to the cottage or somewhere else quiet. Did you notice how often you NOTICED the silence? Not only had that, but you likely felt a lot better after 3 or 4 hours of being there.

It isn’t just cleaner air or taking some time away from work, it’s the silence and lack of distraction. This can be observed by playing loud music and partying the entire time at a cottage as well. You’ll realize it isn’t relaxing, but simply another distraction. When you contrast the two different experiences, the benefits become clearer.

An interesting study observed the effects of noise, music, and silence on the brain. The study was published in the journal Heart and found that the two minute pauses randomly placed between the ‘relaxing music’  in the study were far more relaxing for the brain than the relaxing music. The longer the silence, the more benefits experienced by the participants. Study author L. Bernardi found that his ‘irrelevant’ blank pauses were the most important aspects of the study. Silence is heightened by contrast.

What You Can Do & The Takeaway

So, what can you do if you experience a lot of noise and are looking to avoid loud noises or simply take a break? Firstly, the good news is that the brain recovers from too much noise over time. According to the attention restoration theory, the brain’s finite cognitive resources can begin restoring when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input. In silence, the brain essentially lets down its sensory guard and restores some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.

The practical end of this would look like making an extra effort to be or spend time in silence. This means no music, movies, friends, conversations, phone chimes, etc, even if it’s only for 30 minutes or an hour each day.

This silence would not only allow your brain to restore its cognitive functions like creativity, but it can give you the opportunity to disconnect, quiet down and connect with yourself as well.

Years ago, I created a challenge called the 5 Days of You Challenge that’s designed to do just that – help people slow down, reduce noise and distraction, and connect deeper with themselves. Over the years, I have sent 180,000 people through this challenge and it has resulted in an incredible number of positive transformations.

If you’re looking to:

  • Clear emotional blocks
  • Connect deeply with yourself
  • Find more peace in your life
  • Develop greater self-awareness and presence
  • Slow down and enjoy life more

Then this challenge is something I highly recommend. I’ve made this challenge available to everyone to experience for free. You can check it out on CETV here.

This article (Science Says Silence Is Vital For Our Brains) was originally created for Collective Evolution and is published here under Creative Commons.

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