High-tech goggles allow surgeons to ‘see’ cancerous tissue

April 18, 2014

A new type of goggle currently under development in the USA has the potential to be a major breakthrough in the treatment of cancer.

Chemotherapy, radiotherapy and intrusive surgery are currently the only treatments available to doctors and surgeons when combatting cancer, which affects approximately one in every three people in some form. Removing cancerous tissue by surgical means is particularly challenging, as the difference between healthy tissue and tumorous tissue is often difficult, if not impossible, to perceive. This can often lead to cancerous cells being left behind in the body, often resulting in further bouts of surgery.

The new ‘high-tech goggles’, currently being tested at pilot stage by scientists in the USA,  could potentially be an answer to the challenges posed by detecting cancerous tissue. The goggles allow surgeons to distinguish cancerous cells from healthy tissue, by causing cancerous cells to ‘glow’. Scientists hope that the goggles will enable surgeons to remove all the affected tissue in a single surgery, leaving no part of the tumour behind.

Dr Ryan Fields, a surgeon at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, said: “The technology is quite amazing – almost like having a microscope to guide your surgery in the operating room.”

Just how do the goggles work? In fact, the goggles are not the only thing to play a role in this incredible technology. Before undergoing surgery, the patient is injected with a type of dye, containing a small protein called peptide. This protein has a unique quality, in that it is able to seek out and bind to cancer cells – and cancer cells only – effectively ‘dying’ them.

These ‘dyed’ cells emit light: a specific speed of light that is imperceptible to humans. The goggles are designed to overcome this problem, by using a sensor, which  The dyed cancer cells emit light at a wavelength that cannot be seen by the human eye, but can be detected by a sensor in the goggles worn by the surgeons.

“The sensor captures the fluorescence from the dye lodged in cancer tissue and projects the image into the surgeon’s [field of] view,” explained a doctor working on the development of the dye and goggle technology.  “This creates an augmented reality that allows the surgeons to see cancer cells glowing, providing real-time guidance during surgery.

Whilst the goggles are still in their prototype form, scientists and surgeons alike have strong hope in their potential to reduce the number of secondary surgeries in cancer-related cases. Indeed, it is thought that up to 40 per cent of breast cancer patients in the USA require secondary follow-up surgeries to remove cancerous tissue left behind in the first operation.

“It has the potential to reduce the size of operations, when safe, and guide us to take out more tissue, when required,” said Dr Fields.

However, the goggles will require much larger trials to prove their reliability before they can be considered for routine use.

 

Sources include: BBC News, The Week

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“Massive shift” to renewable energy needed, says UN report

April 14, 2014

A new report drawn up by the United Nations has called for a ‘massive shift’ to renewable energy. The study, which comes after a week of hard negotiations between scientists and government officials in Berlin, Germany, says that climate change can only be reduced by a significant and rapid shift away from non-renewable carbon fuels.

Whilst the report advocates the use of natural gas as a means of bridging the transition from oil and coal to other, renewable sources of energy, such as wind and hydroelectricity, the UN has as yet been unable to agree upon how this energy transition will be funded.

The UK’s Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey spoke of the importance of fighting climate change by all possible means, saying that “We can do this, we have to because it’s so challenging and threatening to our economies and societies, our health, our food security. The report today shows we can do it if we have the political will.”

The UK prides itself on being a major contributor to the fight against climate change and a leader in the use of renewable energy sources. Mr Davey added that “We’ve, for example, doubled the amount of renewable electricity in the last few years. We’re likely to do better than our targets in increasing renewable electricity. But we’ve got to do more.”

The United Nations report suggests that of all of the carbon emitted by human activity since 1750 has been produced in the past 40 years, and rates continue to rise. In particular, the report draws attention to the high increase in coal use since 2000: before this point, global energy rates were pointing towards a possible trend of decarbonisation.

The report warns that if drastic action is not taken immediately, our continually growing population and subsequent increased levels of fuel use could cause the average temperature of our planet to rise by up to 4.8 degrees Celsius by 2100, far above the 2 degree level which is commonly regarded as the point beyond which dangerous impacts of climate change will be felt.

However, scientists involved in the report believe that this situation is not irreversible, and whilst it will involve massive changes in the energy sector. Professor Jim Skea, vice chair of one of the groups working on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report, said that “One of the biggest areas that’s important is getting the carbon out of electricity, so renewable energy, nuclear, fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage, that’s all part of the menu if we are going to make the transition to stay under the 2 degree target.”

For this target to be reached, the world will need to see a 40-70 per cent lowering of carbon emissions by 2050. The IPCC is a keen advocate of the use of renewables in reaching this target, and has praised the progress that renewable energy has made over the past few years, saying that it has come on in ‘leaps and bounds’ since 2007. In 2012, renewable energy use accounted for just over half of the new electricity generation added around the world, and it is hoped that such progress will continue to increase as the need for a reduction in carbon emissions reaches critical levels.

Sources include: The Guardian, BBC News

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TJC offers an extensive global network of professional & experienced multilingual translators, proof-readers and interpreters. We also have academic researchers, specialists and speakers, who are all native speakers of over 100 languages. Our expert translators and interpreters are based all over the globe and can assist you with projects of all kinds  related to construction and industry.

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Filipino becomes third certified language in San Francisco

April 4, 2014

Language barriers can be more than just frustrating. In fact, they can bring about a harmful disconnect between a community and its access to basic services

Until now, more than 10,000 Filipino residents of San Francisco had to put up with this problem – suffering delays in hospital treatment or forced to find their own interpreters and translators when trying to assert their rights as workers, due to their limited English proficiency. Many also felt excluded from the civic life in a vibrant city like San Francisco because of language capacity.

On 2nd April however, Filipino community members and advocates celebrated San Francisco’s certification of Filipino as the third language required for city communications, after months of urging officials to make the change.

In 2009, the city of San Francisco passed a new Language Access Ordinance (LAO), which requires improved language access for city residents, with certain requirements for populations which exceed a threshold of 10,000 limited English proficient or “LEP” community members. Using the latest Federal American Community Survey data for the years 2009-2013, the city’s planning department was able to verify that Tagalog speakers with limited English proficiency surpassed this threshold.

Filipino is the 1st language to be certified after the 2009 passage of the LAO, and will meet the same requirements as Spanish and Chinese, which were certified in 2000, before the LAO existed.

Rachel Ebora, a Filipino immigrant, native Tagalog speaker, and executive director of Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center said of the certification:

“We are delighted at the certification of Pilipino as the third language that the City of San Francisco is required to translate for its communications. To the over 10,000 Filipinos who speak this national language, our hope is that this certification will provide additional access to services and other resources to live in San Francisco.”

The LAO ordinance is an important San Francisco policy that requires the city’s Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs to identify “emerging” language populations and to ensure that residents are able to access translation services when needed in a timely manner. This will alleviate pressure on Filipinos who are staff at nonprofits, government employees, nurses and other healthcare professionals, and family members, including school-age children, all who speak some of the different Philippine languages, who have been translating for thousands of LEP Filipino residents without recognition of this additional service they are providing.

Without this new status, a type of language-based discrimination would continue to exist in the city.

Filipino’s have been present in San Francisco for nearly a century from the days of the Filipino farmworkers at the International Hotel until today. This is a long-overdue recognition of the continuing contributions of Filipinos in San Francisco,

Terrence Valen, FCC’s organizational director and president of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, said:

“For our Filipino community members and their families, the whole world opens up to them when they are able to communicate in their mother language. To keep San Francisco a welcoming city for immigrants, officially removing this language barrier is definitely is an important step in the right direction.”

Sources include: The FilAm SF; GMA News Online

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TJC offers an extensive global network of professional & experienced multilingual translators, proof-readers and interpreters. We also have academic researchers, specialists and speakers, who are all native speakers of over 100 languages. Our expert translators and interpreters are based all over the globe and can assist you with projects of all kinds.

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Japan to increase number of foreign and female construction workers

April 4, 2014

The Japanese government has decided to allow more foreign workers to work in the construction industry following the growing demand for manpower in Japan, reported Kyodo News Network.

The building of facilities for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and planned reconstruction of areas hit by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, are drivers behind the ever increasing demand for workers in this sector, officials said.

The country has experienced a general labour shortage since spending on public projects was increased under President Shinzo Abe. 

Measures to create a new resident status, allowing apprentices from emerging economies working in the construction industry to remain in Japan longer than the current period of three years, will be introduced in April 2015. These measures will also permit previous trainees in Japan to return to the country.

The news comes at the same time as plans by The Japan Federation of Construction Contractors to double the number of skilled female construction workers in Japan to some 180,000 within the next five years to help ease the industry’s labor shortage.

“I hope more and more young people and women will enter the industry to help it remain attractive,” Mitsuyoshi Nakamura, chairman of the federation, said in February.

Sources include: Kyodo News Network; The Japan Times

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TJC offers an extensive global network of professional & experienced multilingual translators, proof-readers and interpreters. We also have academic researchers, specialists and speakers, who are all native speakers of over 100 languages. Our expert translators and interpreters are based all over the globe and can assist you with projects of all kinds  related to construction and industry.

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Culture and climate change: UNESCO World Heritage sites threatened by sea level rise

March 6, 2014

Concerns about climate change are often expressed in environmental and economic terms, but a new study has brought an “an additional dimension” to the discussion: that of culture and human heritage

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Although not on the coast, the Leaning Tower of Pisa could also be affected by increased sea levels, due to its low-lying situation, The Guardian reported. 

The Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Sydney Opera House, the Statue of Liberty, and even Westminster Abbey could become victims of rising sea levels if current trends in global warming are maintained over the next two millenia, says a new study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, reported on by Science Daily.

19% (or 136) of the 740 UNESCO current World Heritage sites will be affected if the earth experiences a rise in temperature of a mere 3C, triggering extensive melting of ice sheets and glaciers. This is a temperature shift which, according to climate science experts, could very well occur within the next century.

The paper also makes clear that loss of territory is among other potential problems brought on by ever-rising sea levels: “at this warming level, 3–12 countries will experience a loss of more than half of their current land surface, 25–36 countries lose at least 10% of their territory, and 7% of the global population currently lives in regions that will be below local sea level.” These  would include low lying cities like Venice, Naples, Bruges, St Petersburg and Hamburg, as well as islands like the Maldives and the Bahamas.

A study which focuses on the cultural impact marks a distinct change in tact from the typical worries about costs and environmental systems, perhaps to appeal to those who remain sceptical about the subject of climate change. UNESCO’s mission is to contribute to the “identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity”. These sites represent the beauty of nature but also that beauty created by civilisation through art, architecture and infrastructure. And indeed, although two millenia seems rather a long way away, many currently existing world heritage sites are as old or older than this. Meaning some may sit up and take note despite the extent of the conjecture.

One may not need to justify the study’s importance any further however, as the lead author, Prof Ben Marzeion of the University of Innsbruck in Austria told the Guardian: “It’s relatively safe to say that we will see the first impacts at these sites in the 21st century,” and instructs that flood defences must be improved to mitigate these effects.

Sources: The Guardian, Science Daily, iopscience, Environmental Research Letters

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TJC offers an extensive global network of professional & experienced multilingual translators, proof-readers and interpreters. We also have academic researchers, specialists and speakers, who are all native speakers of over 100 languages. Our expert translators and interpreters are based all over the globe and can assist you with projects of all kinds  related to the environment and climate change.

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Japan launches precipitation-measuring satellite in bid to understand world’s weather

February 28, 2014

Following weeks of extreme and highly unpredictable weather all over the world, the launch of a new “precipitation measuring” satellite means we may from now on be more prepared…

Japan has successfully launched a rocket carrying a satellite built to track global rain- and snowfall, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The US-built “Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory” launched at 3.37am (Japan Standard Time) on Friday 28th February from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan.  The satellite is part of an international initiative to help us better understand the world’s water cycle and its relationship to storms, droughts and climate change, and is designed to help meteorologists more confidently predict extreme weather such as storms and typhoons.

Steve Neeck, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for Earth science flight programs, said of the project:

“Why are we flying GPM? Rain and snowfall affect our daily lives in many ways … The distribution of precipitation … directly affects the availability of fresh water for sustaining life. Extreme precipitation events like hurricanes, blizzards, floods, droughts and landslides have significant socio-economic impacts on our society.”

Indeed, after months of volatile weather, including deadly snowfall in Japan, severe flooding in the UK and a life-threatening Arctic freeze in the US, the promise of a more comprehensive weather observation system could not come at a better time.

The mission to launch the GPM Core satellite has been in place for over a decade. As a continuation of the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, which began in November 1997, GPM will, among other uses, improve the resolution of images gathered by the TRMM satellite.

JAXA, the Japanese Space Agency, and NASA, have collaborated on the project and together have invested over $1.2 billion creating the sophisticated technology.

Designed and built at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, the GPM Core satellite weighs more than four tons fully fueled. It hosts two instruments to peer inside storms and through cloud layers from an altitude of more than 250 miles, acting like an X-ray for the clouds.

One of the instruments, the Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, will scan the planet to acquire three-dimensional views of rain and snow showers.

The other, NASA’s GPM Microwave Imager, or GMI, built by Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. will measure the total precipitation suspended inside clouds and falling to Earth.

“The GMI will sense the total precipitation within all cloudlayers, including, for the first time, light rain and snowfall,” Neeck said. “The DPR will make detailed three-dimensional measurements of precipitation structures and rates as well as particle drop size.”

The information gathered by the Observatory will fill gaps in precipitation data over oceans, remote land masses and other undeveloped regions.

The spacecraft is set to become the centrepiece of a worldwide program to synthesize observations from disparate international satellites into a database of global rainfall and snowfall, which will be accessible every three hours.

Researchers plan to use data from the GPM Core Observatory to calibrate microwave measurements gathered from the network of already-flying international satellite missions (developed by the United States, Japan, France, India and Eumetsat, the European weather satellite agency), creating a uniform dataset scientists can rely on in their work.

“When scientists incorporate data from the international fleet, they can get a snapshot of all precipitation on Earth every three hours” said Gail Skofronick-Jackson, NASA’s deputy GPM project scientist.

In this way, said Riko Oki, JAXA’s lead scientist in the project, the data recorded by GPM Core Observatory “will be to the benefit of all.”

Sources include: space.com; The Japan Times

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UK flooding and extreme weather linked to climate change

February 11, 2014

With the water level of the Thames at a record high, villages underwater and even more rain to come, the UK is searching for someone to blame, but is the real culprit climate change?…

With more than 130 severe flood warnings, which indicate a danger to life, issued in the UK since December 2013 compared with a mere 12 of the same for the whole of 2012, the storms battering the UK may not be unprecedented but are nothing short of exceptional said Dame Julia Slingo, chief scientist of the Met Office.

The extreme weather has caused flooding to over 5,000 homes over the past two months and thousands more are still at risk as the UK faces another period of rainfall with “no end in sight”.

14 severe warnings are currently in place in the Thames Valley area, while 2 remain in Somerset. The Somerset levels, a South Westerly region of the country, has been dealing with extensive flooding since the beginning of the year.

The Thames river, which runs through the South Eastern counties of Berkshire and Surrey, burst its banks yesterday, exceeding any water level reached since gauges were installed in th2 1980s, meaning many homes are now being evacuated. Train services have been disrupted between Hampshire and Berkshire and Somerset and Wales. Oxfordshire and Essex have also been affected.

While the UK government and the Environment Agency does its best to alleviate the crisis, debates continue as to who is to blame for the lack of preparedness. Some believe rivers should have been dredged (to remove excess silt build-up) and the Environment Agency has been heavily criticised for its poor handling of the crisis. People affected by the flooding have said they felt abandoned by the agency and the chairman, Lord Smith, now faces calls for his dismissal. Others believe government cuts have left funds for aid and flood defences lacking.

Whichever man-made solutions should or should not have been implemented, nature is at the heart of the problem. Evidence now suggests that the cause of what has been called “the most exceptional period of rainfall in 248 years”, may be climate change.

Speaking ahead of a Met Office report produced by the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology, Dame Slingo  said: “while there is no definitive answer for the current weather patterns that we have seen, all the evidence suggests that climate change has a role to play in it.”

The report itself suggests that the recent Polar Vortex in America and the storms hitting the UK are linked. Both caused by “perturbations” in the North Atlantic and Pacific jet streams, partly emanating from changing weather patterns in South East Asia and “associated with higher than normal ocean temperatures in that region”

Dame Slingo said of the connection: “The air that enters this storm system comes from that part of the Atlantic where it is obviously going to be warmer and carrying more moisture.”

“We also now have strong evidence that extreme daily rainfall rates are becoming more intense”

She warned that Britons should be prepared to face more regular extreme weather in the future and that sea levels were expected to rise by a foot over time. “That might not sound a lot, but when you are looking at storm surges, when you are looking at moving water from the Somerset Levels out to sea, it does matter.” she added. 

“The attribution of these changes to anthropogenic global warming requires climate models of sufficient resolution to capture storms and their associated rainfall,” the report said.

Such models are now becoming available and should be deployed as soon as possible to provide a solid evidence base for future investments in flood and coastal defences.”

For now however, there is no end in sight. The jet stream is not yet moving further north to resume its normal position and Sky News reports that groundwater levels are so high that the risk of flooding could remain until May – particularly in low-lying areas such as the Somerset levels.

“Andy McKenzie, a groundwater scientist at the British Geological Survey, told Sky News that even if the rain stopped today, so much water is soaking through the soil that levels are likely to keep rising for another two months.” (Sky News)

For live updates on the floods and the areas affected, see Sky News.

Sources include: BBC News; The Telegraph; The Financial Times; Sky News

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TJC offers an extensive global network of professional & experienced multilingual translators, proof-readers and interpreters. We also have academic researchers, specialists and speakers, who are all native speakers of over 100 languages. Our expert translators and interpreters are based all over the globe and can assist you with projects of all kinds  related to the environment and climate change. 

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