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What was the initial food consumed in space?

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It’s true that space is the final frontier, but life in microgravity still has a long way to go when it comes to food. It seems like this has always been the case. While on the first trip around the sun, Yuri Gagarin ate the first meal ever eaten in space. How did he eat? Yes, it was a choice.

Cosmonaut Gagarin was the first person to go into space. He did one orbit of the Earth in 108 minutes in 1961. Gagarin’s Vostok 1 spaceship had enough food for 13 days in case the retrorocket didn’t work. He would have to wait for Earth to come back to him through natural orbital decay, but it was a good chance to try eating in space. Scientists weren’t sure if basic tasks like chewing and swallowing could be done in microgravity, even though tests had been done on the “Vomit Comet” back on Earth. “No crumbs” was a very important factor, so food that could be turned into a paste and put in a metal tube like toothpaste was used.

Gagarin had two courses, even though he was in orbit for less than two hours. Beef and liver puree was the main dish. Gagarin ate two tubes of it, so maybe it tasted better than it sounds. For dessert, he had a tube of chocolate sauce.

Scientists didn’t know what microgravity would do to people at the time, so they didn’t want Gagarin to lose consciousness, so the capsule was controlled from the ground with a code that could be used to switch to manual control in case of an emergency. This meant they could eat even if something went wrong with their digestion, but Gagarin’s first meal in space showed it was safe to do so.

More and more astronauts went into space and stayed there longer. This made it clear that our taste buds can change when we’re in microgravity. Body fluids move to the top of your head, and research has shown that this may make the smell and taste of food less strong, similar to eating while you have a cold.

As time has gone on, the food and drinks that astronauts and cosmonauts eat and drink in space have changed and gotten better. “Freeze-dried astronaut ice cream” is a thing of the past. Aside from being able to order pizza at the International Space Station (ISS), astronauts can also bake cookies there. Thanks to a specially made cup, you can even get an espresso and drink it in deep space.

Scientists have even been brave enough to see if they can fry food in space. Carefully planned tests were done with a special fryer on a parabolic plane that simulated weightlessness. The results showed that it is possible to deep fry things in microgravity, but please don’t try this at home.

The “no crumbs” rule, on the other hand, is still hard to break, and bread is still a problem. Wraps, pittas, rotis, and bread that doesn’t have crumbs are fine in space, but if you want a space sandwich, we still have work to do.

As Editor here at GeekReply, I'm a big fan of all things Geeky. Most of my contributions to the site are technology related, but I'm also a big fan of video games. My genres of choice include RPGs, MMOs, Grand Strategy, and Simulation. If I'm not chasing after the latest gear on my MMO of choice, I'm here at GeekReply reporting on the latest in Geek culture.

Medicine and Health

A new immune pathway discovery points to a “possible cure” for lupus in the future

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Finding a pathway in the immune system that seems to be a main cause of lupus could lead to the creation of more targeted treatments for this autoimmune disease. This new study is good news for a lot of people who have been living with this long-term condition. In the US alone, 1.5 million people are affected.

People with systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE, or just “lupus,” have a long-term autoimmune disease that shows up in many ways. Some of the most common are joint and muscle pain, extreme tiredness, and a rash that looks like a sunburn on the face. Other symptoms include headaches, fevers, hair loss, and swollen glands.

It may take some time to figure out if someone has lupus because their symptoms are so different and can look like other health problems. If you catch the disease early, you may be able to get better. Moderate to severe forms of the disease can damage organs like the heart and kidneys and, in some cases, even kill you.

Lupus affects millions of people around the world, mostly women and people who were assigned female at birth, but no one knows what causes it.

There is some evidence that it results from issues between the T cells and B cells, two different types of immune cells. Patients usually have a lot of T follicular helper cells and T peripheral helper cells. These cells make CXCL13, an inflammatory molecule that attracts B cells. It’s less clear why this happens, though.

The main goal of treatment is to weaken the immune system so that it doesn’t attack the body’s own tissues. However, this method doesn’t always work and can cause a number of side effects. “Ever since the beginning, all lupus treatment has been rough.” “It’s a broad immunosuppression,” dermatologist and co-corresponding author of the new study, Dr. Jaehyuk Choi, said in a statement.

Choi and his colleagues have now found a pathway in the immune system that seems to be responsible for the disease process in lupus. More importantly, they think they know how to fix it.

Co-corresponding author Dr. Deepak Rao said, “We’ve found a fundamental imbalance in the immune responses that people with lupus make, and we’ve identified specific mediators that can correct this imbalance to dampen the pathologic autoimmune response.”

The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) controls the pathway in question. Its main job is to help cells deal with things that stress them out, like bacteria and pollution. If the AHR pathway isn’t activated enough, too many T peripheral helper cells are made. This leads to more autoantibodies, which are what make people with lupus have so many problems.

They put their theory to the test by adding AHR activators to blood samples from people with lupus. The researchers saw that the T cells changed into the Th22 subtype, which might help the body heal itself instead of making it inflamed and sick.

We learned that we can lower the number of these disease-causing cells by either using small-molecule activators to turn on the AHR pathway or limiting the amount of interferon that is too high in the blood. It might be possible to cure this if the effects last, Choi said.

People who have an autoimmune disease would love to hear those two words: “potential cure.” However, more research needs to be done before these results can be turned into clinical therapies that could help patients. The writers have already started this project and are looking into how AHR activators can be used in a treatment in a safe and effective way.

Still, these results are a big step toward finding better ways to treat a disease whose causes are still not well understood.

The study was written up in Nature.

 

 

 

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Medicine and Health

That’s not easy to do, but this cutting-edge bionic ankle can do it

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A new robotic ankle that is controlled by electrical signals in muscles below the knee is showing promise for making it easier to move and lessening pain. Seven people in a clinical trial testing the new device were able to walk as fast as people who weren’t amputees after just two practice sessions that lasted a total of six hours. Their bionic joints moved in ways that were similar to how their natural ankles moved.

It is simple to walk when you don’t believe it. Controlling something that seems so simple, like walking, is more complicated than just tightening the right muscles. It’s a complicated dance of feedback and control.

When you decide to take a step, your brain tells your spinal cord and legs to contract the muscles in those legs. This bends your joints. Two types of muscles—agonists and antagonists—work in opposite ways to control how each joint moves and where it is located.

Consider your arm. Whenever you bend your elbow, your biceps contracts, pulling your forearm closer to your upper arm. Your triceps, which are on the other side of your arm and are the enemy of this movement, are relaxing and letting it happen at the same time. In the opposite direction, when you stretch your arm, your triceps pull the forearm away, and your biceps relax their pull.

Your brain can figure out how bent your elbow is by reading the tension in both the biceps and the triceps. Proprioception, which means “the perception of yourself” in Latin, is the ability to feel this tension. This then tells your motor system what to do.

When you walk, your hip, knee, and ankle joints bend because your leg muscles work. You walk on uneven ground, slopes, and sticky mud, and each of these joints is in a different place at the beginning and end of each step. You may also face different amounts of resistance during each movement. This means that the brain can’t just send a “walk” command that works for everyone.

There’s a lot to think about when you walk

Leg amputees have lost a lot of muscle and nerves that control muscle contraction and proprioceptive nerves that let the body know how the movement is going. Walking is a lot to think about. New developments in prosthetic limbs are trying to bring back all of the commands and feedback.

Early prosthetic users could move their limbs by using a harness that they powered with their bodies. For example, to move their prosthetic hand, they would learn to move their shoulder. Then, better prostheses came out that controlled ankle joint movement by sending electrical signals to muscles in the upper leg.

Up until now, feedback signals weren’t being used, which made movements less flexible and less able to adapt to a changing environment.

Now there is a new kind of leg prosthesis called the agonist-antagonist myoneural interface (AMI) that promises to make walking smoother. That’s a lot to say. The AMI fixes proprioceptive signaling by linking the agonist and antagonist muscles back together. That way, the brain and the device can figure out how tight the two muscles are in a way that works like our biceps and triceps.

For people who have lost limbs below the knee, the first prosthetic of this type is a bionic ankle that lets the muscles of the shin and calf grow back together. Because the agonist and antagonist are linked again, the tension in the two muscles can be used to figure out how the joints are bending. This tension can be changed to fit different situations, such as stairs and sloped ground.

A decoder in the prosthesis can change the ankle’s flexion in real time, just like a real limb would. It was amazing how much the prosthesis’s ankle moved like a normal person’s when they walked.

What’s next for the legs that don’t work? The sense of smell. The authors talk about studies that show prosthetics work better when they are attached to the bone, or ossum in Latin. Bionic limbs are getting farther away from just moving like real limbs and toward also feeling like real limbs.

Nature Medicine has written about the study.

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Medicine and Health

It’s that time of year again: Do I have COVID-19 or Hay Fever?

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There’s no getting rid of COVID-19, no matter how much we all want it to. To stay alive, it changes all the time, which means that new symptoms appear. The problem is that some of those symptoms could be mistaken for hay fever, which is very common right now. How can you tell them apart?

There is a lot of room for confusion. In 2021, more than 25% of adults in the US were diagnosed with hay fever, and this year, pollen levels have been especially high and early.

At the same time, new types of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, are going around. These types usually have milder but still unpleasant symptoms that can be confused with seasonal conditions like hay fever.

There are, however, some important differences between the most common hay fever symptoms and KP.3, which is thought to be the most common COVID variant in the US right now.

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Some people have been feeling sick, having diarrhea, and throwing up because of the newer strains, but a pollen allergy probably won’t make them feel that way.

When you have COVID, on the other hand, you always have a cough. Pollen might make your throat tickly enough that you need to cough, but probably not as much as when you have COVID.

If we’re still talking about the throat, you might get a sore one with both COVID and hay fever, though it doesn’t happen very often with hay fever. It’s more likely to be an infection if it doesn’t go away after being away from pollen for a while and getting better from other pollen symptoms.

You say you can’t taste or smell anything. Do you also have a stuffy nose? If so, it’s possible that your hay fever is making it hard for you to fully enjoy food and drink.

The so-called FLiRT group of variants, which have spread widely, are to blame for the most recent COVID-19 symptoms. KP.3 is part of this group. All of them come from JN.1, an Omicron spin-off that showed up earlier this year and caused trouble.

These versions aren’t as naughty as their name suggests. The name comes from the amino acid changes they’ve gotten in the spike protein, which is the part of the virus that attaches to cells in our bodies and infects them.

Either naturally or through vaccination, the immune system can learn to recognize spike proteins and get rid of the virus. However, the virus can avoid being killed by changing into slightly different forms.

It doesn’t always happen, but viruses can sometimes cause much milder symptoms during this process. And that, kids, is how we got to this confusing place.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a trained professional. If you have questions about a medical condition, you should always talk to a qualified health professional.

 

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