Autoimmune disease: When your own body starts attacking you…

The complex network of cells and proteins that make up our immune system is an invaluable ally. Foreign invaders that would do us harm, such as viruses, are subject to intense assault by immune cells to keep us safe. Sometimes, however, this powerful defensive armoury turns against us. Immune attack against healthy tissues, known as autoimmunity, is thought to play a part in more than 80 different diseases, including type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis and lupus. Tens of millions of people are affected by these chronic disorders in the United States alone, and although it is often possible to manage the debilitating symptoms, they cannot typically be cured. But researchers are getting closer to working out how to bring the immune system back on side.

Part of Nature Outlook: Autoimmune disease

The understanding of what goes wrong in autoimmune disease, and why, is advancing on numerous fronts. One key question is what makes some people more likely to experience autoimmunity than others. Sex plays a significant part — autoimmune disease is around three times more common in women than in men — but the reasons for this are unclear. Genetic variants that increase the risk of autoimmunity are also being identified. And researchers are investigating environmental factors that might trigger disease. Among the suspected culprits are the microbes in our gut and viral infections — the phenomenon of long COVID, for instance, has been linked to autoimmunity.

As the mechanisms behind autoimmune disease become clearer, so do opportunities for new treatments. Electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve is being explored as an alternative to anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant drugs. Therapy based on engineered immune cells, meanwhile, could bring errant immune activity to a halt entirely. In some autoimmune diseases, such as alopecia areata, calming the immune system should allow the affected tissues to naturally recover. But in others, such as type 1 diabetes, stopping the attack might be only half the battle: damaged tissues might still need to be replaced to restore normal function.

We are pleased to acknowledge the financial support of the Global Autoimmune Institute in producing this Outlook. As always, Nature retains sole responsibility for all editorial content.


Science: Galapagos tortoises use their self-destructing cells to avoid cancer

Galapagos giant tortoises are long-lived in part because their cells are surprisingly sensitive to certain forms of stress. As well as informing research into human medicine, the finding reveals how animals have evolved different ways to resist cancer and ageing.

There’s lots of different ways to get to a large body and a long, healthy lifespan,” says Vincent Lynch at the University at Buffalo, New York.

We would expect large animals to be more susceptible to cancer because they have a greater number of cells, each of …

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Mars: First true indication of Alien life? – Alien burp may have been detected by NASA’s Curiosity rover

[Methane could be a sign of life. It may be a sign of biological activity underground. This happens on Earth too. Jan]

A group of scientists may have just pinpointed the location on Mars of a mysterious source of methane, a gas most often produced by microbes — and NASA’s Curiosity rover could be right on top of it.

Methane blips have pinged on Curiosity’s detection systems six times since the rover landed in Mars’ Gale crater in 2012, but scientists weren’t able to find a source for them. Now, with a new analysis, researchers may have traced the methane burps to their origin.

To calculate the unknown methane source, researchers at the California Institute of Technology modeled the methane gas particles by splitting them into discrete packets. Taking into account the wind speed and direction at the time of their detection, the team traced their parcels of methane back through time to their possible points of emission. By doing this for all of the different detection spikes, they were able to triangulate regions where the methane source is most likely located — with one being just a few dozen miles away from the rover.

"[The findings] point to an active emission region to the west and the southwest of the Curiosity rover on the northwestern crater floor," the researchers wrote in their paper. "This may invoke a coincidence that we selected a landing site for Curiosity that is located next to an active methane emission site."

This prospect is thrilling for scientists, as almost all of the methane in Earth’s atmosphere has biological origins, according to the researchers, so that a signature on Mars could be a key signpost for finding life on the ostensibly desolate planet.

Even if the methane is being produced by non-biological processes, it could point to geological activity closely tied to the presence of liquid water — a vital ingredient for past or present life to thrive.

Curiosity detected the methane blips through an instrument called the Tunable Laser Spectrometer, which is capable of detecting trace quantities of the gas at less than one-half part per billion (ppb), or about the quantity of a pinch of salt dropped into an Olympic-size swimming pool. The methane spikes that led the team to the potential source were registered at roughly 10 ppb.

Previous attempts to cross-check Curiosity’s methane spikes with atmospheric methane levels detected by the European Space Agency’s Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) have failed. This could either mean that there is methane in the Martian atmosphere and the TGO somehow isn’t picking it up, or there isn’t any atmospheric methane on Mars and Curiosity is parked right on top of a local source.

It’s possible that the methane could be leaking out from somewhere underneath Mars’ surface.

"It’s a bit of a haystack," John Moores a professor of planetary science at York University in Toronto, Canada, told New Scientist. "It could be covered by dust and be almost impossible to find."

Though we still don’t know whether the methane comes from tiny life-forms, the detectable life span of gas is only 330 years, after this it is completely destroyed by exposure to sunlight. That means whatever produced the methane could be still producing it today. Scientists’ next job will be to find out what that something is.

The researchers published their findings June 3 on the preprint server Research Square, so their study has yet to be peer-reviewed.


Photo: Famous Boy ‘Who Came Back from Heaven’ Admits It Was All Just a Lie – My Comments

[So here you get it out of the mouth of someone who lied. He wanted the attention. I'm gad he told the truth in the end. Jan]

The Ohio boy who became famous for claiming he visited heaven while trapped in a coma eventually admitted that the entire story was a lie.

When Alex Malarkey was six-years-old, he was involved in a car accident that left him paralyzed, reports the Washington Post. Upon awakening from his deep sleep, he told his family and doctors that he reached Heaven’s gates. The boy even alleged that he came face-to-face with Satan and Jesus during his voyage, and looked down to see the wreckage of the car accident.

Obviously, his account became a best-selling book titled The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, which was written by both he and his father, Kevin.

In the book, this is what he remembers about the experience:

When I arrived in Heaven, I was inside the gate. The gate was really tall, and it was white. It was very shiny, and it looked like it had scales like a fish. I was in the inner Heaven and everything was brighter and more intense on the inside of the gate. It was perfect. Perfect is my favorite word for describing Heaven.

However, when he was 16 the quadriplegic teen came forward — writing a letter to “sellers, buyers and marketers” of the book. He made it clear that the encounters he described didn’t actually happen.

The letter revealed why he chose to lie.

I said I went to Heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.

According to the Daily Mail, Alex told a pastor at church that he made everything up but was advised to keep quiet because the book was a blessing.

Alex’s mother, Beth, had known the story was a sham for quite some time. She even shared the truth on her blog.

She said, “It is both puzzling and painful to watch the book ‘The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven’ not only continue to sell, but to continue, for the most part, to not be questioned.”

The Washington Post reported that Tyndale House has officially taken the book out of print, while booksellers nationwide are expected to pull the story from their shelves.


Science: Mars was habitable for a million of years! – Lakes on Mars!

Martian surface

Gale crater on Mars may have contained a life-friendly lake for a million years


Parts of Mars may have been habitable for thousands or even a million years, based on analysis of clays found in one of its craters that could only have formed in a stable life-friendly environment.

In 2016, NASA’s Curiosity rover used its onboard drill to sample the Martian surface inside Gale Crater, which it is exploring. Studying the sample with X-rays using the rover’s onboard instruments, scientists found the presence of a particular clay mineral related to so-called glauconitic clays, which point to a period of habitability in the crater’s past.

While the site was already thought to have contained an ancient lake for up to 10 million years about 3.5 billion years ago, when the planet’s atmosphere was thicker and able to support liquid water on its surface, it was unclear if this lake would have had suitable conditions for life, such as a moderate temperature and neutral acidity.

However, the presence of mineral remnants of glauconitic clays is a promising sign. Their presence on Mars suggests that stable conditions – with temperatures around -3 to 15°C and water with a neutral pH – may have existed on Mars in Gale Crater, possibly for up to a million years.

“Glauconitic clays can be used as ‘a proxy’ for stable conditions,” says Elisabeth Losa-Adams at the University of Vigo, Spain, the study’s lead author. “The conditions under which these minerals form are friendly for the presence of life.”

While these glauconitic clays are an indicator of habitability at this time, they aren’t evidence of life itself. Finding such evidence is the goal of another NASA Mars rover – Perseverance – now exploring Jezero Crater. Curiosity’s findings in Gale Crater are a promising sign that Perseverance may strike lucky.

“The existence of glauconitic clays could provide a new understanding of the evolution of the ancient Gale Crater lake,” says Losa-Adams.


Video: A Cocky Old Physics Prof. looses a physics bet for $10,000 over impossible Wind Vehicle

[So one professor, later followed by others says that this wind powered vehicle is doing something impossible. It cannot go faster than the very wind that is blowing it. And he agrees to a bet … which he proceeds to lose! Jan]

Here’s the video: