In Pictures: Character Donuts

Sea Scallop in Herb Broth

Ingredients

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley (about 2 cups)
1 bunch watercress (about 1-1/2 cups), tough stems removed
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
1-1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for scallops
16 sea scallops (about 1 pound)
freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
cooked white beans and mushroom to serve

Method

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine 1-1/2 cups parsley, 1 cup watercress, shallots, water, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 Minutes. Strain and reserve liquid. Set aside.
  2. Season scallops on both sides with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook half the scallops for 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Turn and cook for 3 more minutes. Keep warm; repeat process.
  4. Return broth to a boil. In a blender, combine remaining parsley and watercress with hot broth. Cover blender with a towel to absorb any splashes, hold top firmly in place, and puree. Strain, and adjust seasonings.
  5. Pour broth into serving dish. Add white beans and mushroom and place scallops on top.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: What to have for Dinner

Ultraviolet LEDs Prove Effective in Eliminating Coronavirus from Surfaces and, Potentially, Air and Water

Sonia Fernandez wrote . . . . . . . . .

As COVID-19 continues to ravage global populations, the world is singularly focused on finding ways to battle the novel coronavirus. That includes UC Santa Barbara’s Solid State Lighting & Energy Electronics Center (SSLEEC) and member companies. Researchers there are developing ultraviolet LEDs that have the ability to decontaminate surfaces — and potentially air and water — that have come in contact with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

“One major application is in medical situations — the disinfection of personal protective equipment, surfaces, floors, within the HVAC systems, et cetera,” said materials doctoral researcher Christian Zollner, whose work centers on advancing deep ultraviolet light LED technology for sanitation and purification purposes. He added that a small market already exists for UV-C disinfection products in medical contexts.

Indeed, much attention of late has turned to the power of ultraviolet light to inactivate the novel coronavirus. As a technology, ultraviolet light disinfection has been around for a while. And while practical, large-scale efficacy against the spread of SARS-CoV-2 has yet to be shown, UV light shows a lot of promise: SSLEEC member company Seoul Semiconductor in early April reported a “99.9% sterilization of coronavirus (COVID-19) in 30 seconds” with their UV LED products. Their technology currently is being adopted for automotive use, in UV LED lamps that sterilize the interior of unoccupied vehicles.

It’s worth noting that not all UV wavelengths are alike. UV-A and UV-B — the types we get a lot of here on Earth courtesy of the Sun — have important uses, but the rare UV-C is the ultraviolet light of choice for purifying air and water and for inactivating microbes. These can be generated here only via man-made processes.

“UV-C light in the 260 – 285 nm range most relevant for current disinfection technologies is also harmful to human skin, so for now it is mostly used in applications where no one is present at the time of disinfection,” Zollner said. In fact, the World Health Organization warns against using ultraviolet disinfection lamps to sanitize hands or other areas of the skin — even brief exposure to UV-C light can cause burns and eye damage.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic gained global momentum, materials scientists at SSLEEC were already at work advancing UV-C LED technology. This area of the electromagnetic spectrum is a relatively new frontier for solid-state lighting; UV-C light is more commonly generated via mercury vapor lamps and, according to Zollner, “many technological advances are needed for the UV LED to reach its potential in terms of efficiency, cost, reliability and lifetime.”

In a letter published in the journal ACS Photonics, the researchers reported a more elegant method for fabricating high-quality deep-ultraviolet (UV-C) LEDs that involves depositing a film of the semiconductor alloy aluminum gallium nitride (AlGaN) on a substrate of silicon carbide (SiC) — a departure from the more widely used sapphire substrate.

According to Zollner, using silicon carbide as a substrate allows for more efficient and cost-effective growth of high-quality UV-C semiconductor material than using sapphire. This, he explained, is due to how closely the materials’ atomic structures match up.

“As a general rule of thumb, the more structurally similar (in terms of atomic crystal structure) the substrate and the film are to each other, the easier it is to achieve high material quality,” he said. The better the quality, the better the LED’s efficiency and performance. Sapphire is dissimilar structurally, and producing material without flaws and misalignments often requires complicated additional steps. Silicon carbide is not a perfect match, Zollner said, but it enables a high quality without the need for costly, additional methods.

In addition, silicon carbide is far less expensive than the “ideal” aluminum nitride substrate, making it more mass production-friendly, according to Zollner.

Portable, fast-acting water disinfection was among the primary applications the researchers had in mind as they were developing their UV-C LED technology; the diodes’ durability, reliability and small form factor would be a game changer in less developed areas of the world where clean water is not available.

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has added another dimension. As the world races to find vaccines, therapies and cures for the disease, disinfection, decontamination and isolation are the few weapons we have to defend ourselves, and the solutions will need to be deployed worldwide. In addition to UV-C for water sanitation purposes, UV-C light could be integrated into systems that turn on when no one is present, Zollner said.

“This would provide a low-cost, chemical-free and convenient way to sanitize public, retail, personal and medical spaces,” he said.

For the moment, however, it’s a game of patience, as Zollner and colleagues wait out the pandemic. Research at UC Santa Barbara has slowed to a trickle to minimize person-to-person contact.

“Our next steps, once research activities resume at UCSB, is to continue our work on improving our AlGaN/SiC platform to hopefully produce the world’s most efficient UV-C light emitters,” he said.

Source: UC Santa Barbara

Breeding a Hardier, More Nutritious Wheat

Some new crop varieties are bred to be more nutritious. Others are more resilient, bred to tolerate harsher environmental conditions.

In a new study, researchers report a variety of wheat that combines enhanced nutrition with increased resilience. The researchers also tested a breeding method that could reduce costs and save time compared to traditional methods.

The newly developed wheat variety contains higher levels of a naturally occurring carbohydrate, called fructans.

“Wheat with increased fructan levels can be more climate-resilient in certain situations,” says Lynn Veenstra, a researcher at Cornell University. “These situations include high salinity or cold temperatures”.

Fructans are long chains of the sugar fructose. Unlike the fructose present in foods, such as high-fructose corn syrup, fructans cannot be digested by humans. This makes fructans a good source of soluble fiber.

Previous research has shown that consuming foods with higher fructan levels could also promote healthy gut bacteria.

In the US, a large portion of daily fructan intake comes from wheat products, such as bread. That makes developing high-fructan wheat important.

There’s yet another advantage to using high-fructan wheat. “We wouldn’t have to supplement wheat products with fructans or fiber from other sources,” says Veenstra. “This wheat would already contain higher levels of fructans.”

But breeding high-fructan wheat can be time-consuming and expensive. “The development of nutritionally improved wheat varieties often requires extensive resources,” says Veenstra.

Typically, a process called phenotyping takes the most time. Phenotyping is the measurement of crop characteristics – like fructan levels or yield.

Phenotyping allows plant breeders to compare new and existing varieties of crops. For example, they can test if newer varieties have higher or lower fructan levels than existing crops. At the same time, they need to make sure other crop features – like yield or disease resistance – haven’t been reduced.

A relatively new breeding method can expedite the development of new crop varieties. Veenstra and colleagues tested variations of this method, called genomic selection.

Genomic selection uses a relatively small ‘training’ set of individual plants. Researchers combine phenotyping and genetic data from this training set of plants. Then they use these data to train a statistical model.

Once trained, the statistical model can predict plant characteristics – like fructan levels – based solely on genetics.

“This allows crop breeding without needing to collect data on observed characteristics,” says Veenstra.

Genomic selection saves time and resources in two ways. First, the training set of plants is relatively small. That allows phenotyping to be concluded quickly. Second, genetic testing can often be much quicker than measuring crop characteristics.

Ultimately, genomic selection can allow breeders to save both cost and time during the breeding process.

There are some caveats to using genomic selection, though. Inbreeding can happen, for instance, which can reduce crop diversity. Reduced diversity can make crops susceptible to diseases.

So Veenstra and her colleagues tested two different modes of genomic selection. They found that one method led to wheat with higher fructans while maintaining genomic diversity.

“I think this is the most important finding of this study,” says Veenstra. “Genomic selection can be used for nutritional breeding.”

Researchers still need to know more about the fructans in the new wheat variety. “We also want to determine how stable these fructans are during food processing,” says Veenstra.

For example, yeast degrades different fructans at different rates. That would impact how much fructan ends up in a loaf of bread.

“I believe both wheat growers and consumers stand to benefit from high-fructan wheat,” says Veenstra. “For wheat growers, high-fructan varieties have the potential to withstand climatic stress. For consumers, high-fructan wheat products may have positive impacts on gut-health.”

This research was recently published in Crop Science.

Source: American Society of Agronomy

Breastfeeding May Lead to Fewer Human Viruses in Newborns’ Gastrointestinal Systems

Even small amounts of breastmilk strongly influences the accumulation of viral populations in the infant gut and provides a protective effect against potentially pathogenic viruses, according to researchers who examined hundreds of babies in a study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

The findings expand upon prior research that suggests that breastfeeding plays a key role in the interaction between babies and the microbial environment. This latest research could influence strategies for the prevention of early gastrointestinal disorders, and encourage mothers to feed babies breastmilk even when mixed with formula. The findings are published in Nature.

Penn researchers measured the numbers and types of viruses in the first stool — meconium — and subsequent stools of newborns in the United States and Botswana using advanced genome sequencing and other methods. Upon delivery, babies had little or no colonization, but by one month of life populations of viruses and bacteria were well developed, with numbers of viruses reaching a billion per gram of gut contents. Most of the first wave of viruses turned out to be predators that grow in the first bacteria that colonize the infant gut. Later, at four months, viruses that can replicate in human cells and potentially make humans sick were more prominent in the babies’ stools. A strong protective effect was seen for breastfeeding, which suppressed the accumulation of these potentially pathogenic viruses. Similar results were seen for infants from the US and Botswana. Another conclusion from this work was that breastmilk could be protective even if sometimes mixed with formula, compared to a with formula-only diet.

“These findings can help us better understand why some babies get sick and develop life-threatening infections in their first months of life,” said senior author Frederic Bushman, PhD, chair of the department of Microbiology.

The newborns’ home country also played a part in the prevalence of viral infections. Babies from Botswana were more likely to have those potentially-harmful viruses in their stools at that 4-month mark compared to the stools of babies from the US.

“Location of the mom and baby seems to play a role, probably due to the kind and number of microorganisms babies are exposed to environmentally,” said first author Guanxiang Liang, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the department at Microbiology. “Nevertheless, Botswana-born babies still seemed to benefit from breastfeeding, whether exclusively or in addition to formula consumption.”

In the future, Bushman and Liang want to look at varying ages to see how development of the virome — the virus population in the gut — influences a child’s growth, how virome colonization varies in infants around the world, and how virome colonization influences outcomes in preterm birth.

Source: Penn Medicine


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