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Kosmos
Astronomia Astrofizyka
Inne

Kultura
Sztuka dawna i współczesna, muzea i kolekcje

Metoda
Metodologia nauk, Matematyka, Filozofia, Miary i wagi, Pomiary

Materia
Substancje, reakcje, energia
Fizyka, chemia i inżynieria materiałowa

Człowiek
Antropologia kulturowa Socjologia Psychologia Zdrowie i medycyna

Wizje
Przewidywania Kosmologia Religie Ideologia Polityka

Ziemia
Geologia, geofizyka, geochemia, środowisko przyrodnicze

Życie
Biologia, biologia molekularna i genetyka

Cyberprzestrzeń
Technologia cyberprzestrzeni, cyberkultura, media i komunikacja

Działalność
Wiadomości | Gospodarka, biznes, zarządzanie, ekonomia

Technologie
Budownictwo, energetyka, transport, wytwarzanie, technologie informacyjne

Czasopisma z MDPI

Wydawnictwo MDPI publikuje czasopisma Open Access.

In Australia, geothermal energy technology is still considered an emerging technology for energy generation. Like other emerging energy technologies, how the public perceive the technology and under what conditions they are likely to accept or oppose the technology, remains relatively unknown. In response, this exploratory research utilised online focus groups to identify: (1) the extent of agreement with geothermal technology before and after information, including media reports focusing on a range of the technology’s attributes; and (2) how the characteristics of individuals with different levels of agreement vary. After information, within the sample of 101 participants, fewer reported being unsure, the minority disagreed and the majority agreed. Overall, the preference was for projects to be located away from communities. Participants that disagreed or were unsure, were more likely to report lower subjective knowledge of the technology, lower perceived benefits and higher risks, and were less likely to believe people in their community would have the opportunity to participate in consultation. These characteristics suggest there are advances to be made by analyzing what contributes to different levels of acceptance. The findings also suggest that the location of projects will be an important consideration and that the conditions of acceptance are likely to vary amongst community members.

http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/7/3/1555 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Coastal zones are under severe pressure from anthropogenic activities, as well as on-going climate change with associated sea level rise and increased storminess. These challenges call for integrated and forward looking solutions. The concept on Integrated Coastal Zone Management, as defined during the last twenty years, provides the overall policy frames, but tools to support the planning and management efforts are almost lacking. Furthermore, the forward-looking dimension to embrace the effects of climate change is nearly absent in most implementations. The BLAST project, financed by the European Union Regional Fund through the INTERREG IV North Sea Region Programme, aimed at developing a web-based decision support system to assist Integrated Coastal Zone Management from a climate change perspective, and the current paper describes the methods used and the computing platform for implementing a decision support system. The software applied in developing the system is mainly Open Source components, thus, facilitating a more widespread use of the system.

http://www.mdpi.com/2220-9964/3/1/326 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Background: An intervention trial found a trend for shorter length of stay (LOS) in patients with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) when the CURB65 score was combined with the prognostic biomarker proadrenomedullin (ProADM) (CURB65-A). However, the efficacy and safety of CURB65-A in real life situations remains unclear. Methods: From September, 2011, until April, 2012, we performed a post-study prospective observational quality control survey at the cantonal Hospital of Aarau, Switzerland of consecutive adults with CAP. The primary endpoint was length of stay (LOS) during the index hospitalization and within 30 days. We compared the results with two well-defined historic cohorts of CAP patients hospitalized in the same hospital with the use of multivariate regression, namely 83 patients in the observation study without ProADM (OPTIMA I) and the 169 patients in the intervention study (OPTIMA II RCT). Results: A total of 89 patients with confirmed CAP were included. As compared to patients with CURB65 only observed in the OPTIMA I study, adjusted regression analysis showed a significant shorter initial LOS (7.5 vs. 10.4 days; −2.32; 95% CI, −4.51 to −0.13; p = 0.04) when CURB65-A was used in clinical routine. No significant differences were found for LOS within 30 days. There were no significant differences in safety outcomes in regard to mortality and ICU admission between the cohorts. Conclusion: This post-study survey provides evidence that the use of ProADM in combination with CURB65 (CURB65-A) in “real life” situations reduces initial LOS compared to the CURB65 score alone without apparent negative effects on patient safety.

http://www.mdpi.com/2077-0383/3/1/267 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Sequencing the human genome was a huge milestone in genetic research that revealed almost the total DNA sequence required to create a human being. However, in order to function, the DNA genome needs to be expressed as an RNA transcriptome. This article reviews how knowledge of genome sequence information has led to fundamental discoveries in how the transcriptome is processed, with a focus on new system-wide insights into how pre-mRNAs that are encoded by split genes in the genome are rearranged by splicing into functional mRNAs. These advances have been made possible by the development of new post-genome technologies to probe splicing patterns. Transcriptome-wide approaches have characterised a “splicing code” that is embedded within and has a significant role in deciphering the genome, and is deciphered by RNA binding proteins. These analyses have also found that most human genes encode multiple mRNA isoforms, and in some cases proteins, leading in turn to a re-assessment of what exactly a gene is. Analysis of the transcriptome has given insights into how the genome is packaged and transcribed, and is helping to explain important aspects of genome evolution.

http://www.mdpi.com/2073-4425/5/1/235 2014/03/14 - 14:59

We describe a future land cover scenario construction process developed under consultation with a group of stakeholders from our study area. We developed a simple geographic information system (GIS) method to modify a land cover dataset and then used qualitative data extracted from the stakeholder storyline to modify it. These identified variables related to our study area’s land use regulation system as the major driver in the placement of new urban growth on the landscape; and the accommodation of new population as the determinant of its growth rate. The outcome was a series of three scenario maps depicting a gradient of increased urbanization. The effort attempted to create a simple and transparent modeling framework that is easy to communicate. The incorporation of the regulatory context and rules and place-specific modeling for denser urban and sparse rural areas provide new insights of future land conversions. This relatively rapid mapping process provides useful information for spatial planning and projects for where and how much urban land will be present by the year 2050.

http://www.mdpi.com/2073-445X/3/1/322 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Two new guaiazulene-based analogues, ochracenoids A (1) and B (2), along with four known analogues (3–6), were isolated from the gorgonian Anthogorgia ochracea collected from the South China Sea. The planar structures of the new compounds were elucidated by comprehensive spectroscopic data. The absolute configuration of 1 was determined as 3R by the comparison of TDDFT calculated electronic circular dichroism with its experimental spectrum. Compound 1 is a rare guaiazulene-based analogue possessing a unique C16 skeleton. The possible generation process of 1 through an intermolecular one-carbon-transfer reaction was also discussed. Compound 2 was previously described as a presumed intermediate involved in the biogenesis of anthogorgienes A and I. Compound 3 exhibited antiproliferative effects on the embryo development of zebrafish Danio rerio.

http://www.mdpi.com/1660-3397/12/3/1569 2014/03/14 - 14:59

DNA damage prevention is an important mechanism involved in cancer prevention by dietary compounds. Armoracia rusticana is cultivated mainly for its roots that are used in the human diet as a pungent spice. The roots represent rich sources of biologically active phytocompounds, which are beneficial for humans. In this study we investigated the modulation of H2O2 genotoxicity using the A. rusticana root aqueous extract (AE) and two flavonoids (kaempferol or quercetin). Human lymphocytes pre-treated with AE, kaempferol and quercetin were challenged with H2O2 and the DNA damage was assessed by the comet assay. At first we assessed a non-genotoxic concentration of AE and flavonoids, respectively. In lymphocytes challenged with H2O2 we proved that the 0.0025 mg·mL−1 concentration of AE protected human DNA. It significantly reduced H2O2-induced oxidative damage (from 78% to 35.75%). Similarly, a non-genotoxic concentration of kaempferol (5 μg·mL−1) significantly diminished oxidative DNA damage (from 83.3% to 19.4%), and the same concentration of quercetin also reduced the genotoxic effect of H2O2 (from 83.3% to 16.2%). We conclude that AE, kaempferol and quercetin probably act as antimutagens. The molecular mechanisms underlying their antimutagenic activity might be explained by their antioxidant properties.

http://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/19/3/3160 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Patterned films of poly(styrene-co-maleic anhydride) copolymers were deposited by dip-coating from acetone solutions. A qualitative study of the film morphologies shows the formation of polymer spheres with smaller diameters at higher amounts of maleic anhydride (MA), and long-fibrous features at higher molecular weights. Upon heating, the films progressively re-assemble with short- and long-fibrous structures as a function of heating time and temperature. In parallel, the film morphologies are quantified by image processing and filtering techniques. The differential scanning calorimetry confirms the higher glass transition temperatures with increasing amount of MA. The analysis with Raman spectroscopy shows interactions between the molecules in solution and effects of ring-opening (hydrolysis) and ring-closure (formation of MA) during drying of the films. The water contact angles on the patterned films are within the hydrophilic range. They mainly correlate with the amount of MA moieties calculated from spectroscopy, while the roughness parameters have a minor effect. The variations in film patterns illustrate the self-assemble ability of the copolymers and confirm a heterogeneous molecular structure, as previously assumed.

http://www.mdpi.com/2073-4360/6/3/820 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Business and credit cycles have an impact on credit insurance, as they do on other businesses. Nevertheless, in credit insurance, the impact of the systemic risk is even more important and can lead to major losses during a crisis. Because of this, the insurer surveils and manages policies almost continuously. The management actions it takes limit the consequences of a downturning cycle. However, the traditional modeling of economic capital does not take into account this important feature of credit insurance. This paper proposes a model aiming to estimate future losses of a credit insurance portfolio, while taking into account the insurer’s management actions. The model considers the capacity of the credit insurer to take on less risk in the case of a cycle downturn, but also the inverse, in the case of a cycle upturn; so, losses are predicted with a more dynamic perspective. According to our results, the economic capital is over-estimated when not considering the management actions of the insurer.

http://www.mdpi.com/2227-9091/2/1/74 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Recently there has been much effort in the quantum information community to prove (or disprove) the existence of symmetric informationally complete (SIC) sets of quantum states in arbitrary finite dimension. This paper strengthens the urgency of this question by showing that if SIC-sets exist: (1) by a natural measure of orthonormality, they are as close to being an orthonormal basis for the space of density operators as possible; and (2) in prime dimensions, the standard construction for complete sets of mutually unbiased bases and Weyl-Heisenberg covariant SIC-sets are intimately related: The latter represent minimum uncertainty states for the former in the sense of Wootters and Sussman. Finally, we contribute to the question of existence by conjecturing a quadratic redundancy in the equations for Weyl-Heisenberg SIC-sets.

http://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/16/3/1484 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Metal mobilization in general, as well as the number of metals used in products to increase performance and provide sometimes unique functionalities, has increased steadily in the past decades. Materials, such as indium, gallium, platinum group metals (PGM), and rare earths (RE), are used ever more frequently in high-tech applications and their criticality as a function of economic importance and supply risks has been highlighted in various studies. Nevertheless, recycling rates are often below one percent. Against this background, secondary flows of critical metals from three different end-of-life products up to 2020 are modeled and losses along the products’ end-of-life (EOL) chain are identified. Two established applications of PGM and RE–industrial catalysts and thermal barrier coatings–and CIGS photovoltaic cells as a relatively new product have been analyzed. In addition to a quantification of future EOL flows, the analysis showed that a relatively well working recycling system exists for PGM-bearing catalysts, while a complete loss of critical metals occurs for the other applications. The reasons include a lack of economic incentives, technologically caused material dissipation and other technological challenges.

http://www.mdpi.com/2079-9276/3/1/291 2014/03/14 - 14:59

In this work we explore the negative thermo-optic properties of liquid crystal claddings for passive temperature stabilization of silicon photonic integrated circuits. Photonic circuits are playing an increasing role in communications and computing, but they suffer from temperature dependent performance variation. Most existing techniques aimed at compensation of thermal effects rely on power hungry Joule heating. We show that integrating a liquid crystal cladding helps to minimize the effects of a temperature dependent drift. The advantage of liquid crystals lies in their high negative thermo-optic coefficients in addition to low absorption at the infrared wavelengths.

http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1944/7/3/2229 2014/03/14 - 14:59

The idea of a bioactive surface coating that enhances bone healing and bone growth is a strong focus of on-going research for bone implant materials. Enamel matrix derivate (EMD) is well documented to support bone regeneration and activates growth of mesenchymal tissues. Thus, it is a prime candidate for coating of existing implant surfaces. The aim of this study was to show that cathodic polarization can be used for coating commercially available implant surfaces with an immobilized but functional and bio-available surface layer of EMD. After coating, XPS revealed EMD-related bindings on the surface while SIMS showed incorporation of EMD into the surface. The hydride layer of the original surface could be activated for coating in an integrated one-step process that did not require any pre-treatment of the surface. SEM images showed nano-spheres and nano-rods on coated surfaces that were EMD-related. Moreover, the surface roughness remained unchanged after coating, as it was shown by optical profilometry. The mass peaks observed in the matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectroscopy (MALDI-TOF MS) analysis confirmed the integrity of EMD after coating. Assessment of the bioavailability suggested that the modified surfaces were active for osteoblast like MC3M3-E1 cells in showing enhanced Coll-1 gene expression and ALP activity.

http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1944/7/3/2210 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Gamma titanium aluminides (γ-TiAl) display significantly improved high temperature mechanical properties over conventional titanium alloys. Due to their low densities, these alloys are increasingly becoming strong candidates to replace nickel-base superalloys in future gas turbine aeroengine components. To determine the safe operating life of such components, a good understanding of their creep properties is essential. Of particular importance to gas turbine component design is the ability to accurately predict the rate of accumulation of creep strain to ensure that excessive deformation does not occur during the component’s service life and to quantify the effects of creep on fatigue life. The theta (θ) projection technique is an illustrative example of a creep curve method which has, in this paper, been utilised to accurately represent the creep behaviour of the γ-TiAl alloy Ti -45Al-2Mn-2Nb. Furthermore, a continuum damage approach based on the θ-projection method has also been used to represent tertiary creep damage and accurately predict creep rupture.

http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1944/7/3/2194 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Many of the health benefits associated with dietary fiber are attributed to their fermentation by microbiota and production of short chain fatty acids (SCFA). The aim of this study was to investigate the fermentability of the functional fiber PolyGlyopleX® (PGX®) in vitro. A validated dynamic, computer-controlled in vitro system simulating the conditions in the proximal large intestine (TIM-2) was used. Sodium hydroxide (NaOH) consumption in the system was used as an indicator of fermentability and SCFA and branched chain fatty acids (BCFA) production was determined. NaOH consumption was significantly higher for Fructooligosaccharide (FOS) than PGX, which was higher than cellulose (p = 0.002). At 32, 48 and 72 h, acetate and butyrate production were higher for FOS and PGX versus cellulose. Propionate production was higher for PGX than cellulose at 32, 48, 56 and 72 h and higher than FOS at 72 h (p = 0.014). Total BCFA production was lower for FOS compared to cellulose, whereas production with PGX was lower than for cellulose at 72 h. In conclusion, PGX is fermented by the colonic microbiota which appeared to adapt to the substrate over time. The greater propionate production for PGX may explain part of the cholesterol-lowering properties of PGX seen in rodents and humans.

http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/6/3/1115 2014/03/14 - 14:59

The selenium (Se) content in human hair is useful as an indicator of human Se intake and status. In this regard, when measuring the hair Se concentrations in Chinese inhabitants across northeast to southeast China, the results indicated that generally 84% of all residents have normal hair Se content. Between the sexes, the average hair Se content of males was higher than that of females, irrespective of districts. When comparing geographical regions, the average hair Se content of southern residents was greater than that of northern residents, regardless of gender. Historically, the overall hair Se content of today’s inhabitants decreased between 24% and 46% when compared with the inhabitants living in the same geographic region 20 years ago. The decrease of hair Se content may be related to the overall decrease of grain consumption and the lower Se content in the staple food rice.

http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/6/3/1103 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Climate change poses a serious challenge to sustainable urban development worldwide. In Sweden, climate change work at the city level emerged in 1996 and has long had a focus on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. City planners’ “adaptation turn” is recent and still ongoing. This paper presents a meta-evaluation of Swedish municipal adaptation approaches, and how they relate to institutional structures at different levels. The results show that although increasing efforts are being put into the identification of barriers to adaptation planning, in contrast, there is little assessment or systematization of the actual adaptation measures and mainstreaming strategies taken. On this basis, opportunities for advancing a more comprehensive approach to sustainable adaptation planning at both the local and institutional level are discussed.

http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/6/3/1359 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Phthalates, widely used in flexible plastics and consumer products, have become ubiquitous contaminants worldwide. This study evaluated the acute toxicity and estrogenic endocrine disrupting activity of butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP), di(n-butyl) phthalate (DBP), bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP), diisononyl phthalate (DINP), di-n-octyl phthalate (DNOP) and their mixtures. Using a 72 h zebrafish embryo toxicity test, the LC50 values of BBP, DBP and a mixture of the six phthalates were found to be 0.72, 0.63 and 0.50 ppm, respectively. The other four phthalates did not cause more than 50% exposed embryo mortality even at their highest soluble concentrations. The typical toxicity symptoms caused by phthalates were death, tail curvature, necrosis, cardio edema and no touch response. Using an estrogen-responsive ChgH-EGFP transgenic medaka (Oryzias melastigma) eleutheroembryos based 24 h test, BBP demonstrated estrogenic activity, DBP, DEHP, DINP and the mixture of the six phthalates exhibited enhanced-estrogenic activity and DIDP and DNOP showed no enhanced- or anti-estrogenic activity. These findings highlighted the developmental toxicity of BBP and DBP, and the estrogenic endocrine disrupting activity of BBP, DBP, DEHP and DINP on intact organisms, indicating that the widespread use of these phthalates may cause potential health risks to human beings.

http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/11/3/3156 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Background: Hepatoma associated with hepatitis B infection is a major public health problem in Shenzhen (China) and worldwide. China has the largest number of people infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV), and many studies have demonstrated that HBV infection is associated with hepatoma development. Shenzhen officials have been attempting to monitor and control these diseases for many years. The methodology and the results of this study may be useful in developing a system to monitor, prevent and control these diseases. Methods: The aim of the study was to analyze HBV infection and hepatoma distribution characteristics and patterns in Shenzhen by combining geographic information system (GIS) technology and spatial analysis. The study used data from patients at the district level from the 2010–2012 population censuses. Results: Only one-third of the patients were female, and 70.7% of all cases were 20–50 years of age. There was no global spatial correlation of the distribution of hepatitis B infections and hepatomas; however, there was a local spatial correlation, and certain sub-districts of the Nanshan district had significant agglomeration effects. Based on incidence density and rate maps, we can conclude that the Shenzhen special zone had a higher incidence density and rate of hepatitis B infections and hepatomas compared with the area outside of the Shenzhen special zone during 2010–2012. Conclusions: This study demonstrated substantial geographic variation in the incidence of hepatitis B infection and hepatoma in Shenzhen. The prediction and control of hepatitis B infections and hepatoma development and interventions for these diseases should focus on disadvantaged areas to reduce disparities. GIS and spatial analysis play an important role in public health risk-reduction programs and may become integral components in the epidemiologic description, analysis and risk assessment of hepatitis B and hepatoma.

http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/11/3/3143 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Fluoride is a naturally occurring contaminant in groundwater in Estonia. There are several regions in Estonia with fluoride contents in public water supplies as high as 7 mg/L. Long-term exposure to high-fluoride drinking water may have several adverse health effects, primarily dental fluorosis. The opportunities for exposure reduction rely highly on water treatment technologies. Since 2004 public water suppliers in Estonia have made efforts to diminish fluoride content in drinking water systems. A follow-up study on a country level was carried out in 2004–2012 to analyze the changes in population exposure to excessive (over 1.5 mg/L) fluoride in drinking water and to get information about the reduction methods applied by public water supplies (PWS) to optimize the fluoride levels in public water system. The results showed that bigger PWS have been more effective in fluoride reduction measures than small PWS. The main methods used to lower the fluoride content were reverse osmosis technology and replacement of water sources with new ones (new drilled wells). As a result of all the measures taken the overall high-fluoride exposure has been reduced substantially (82%).

http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/11/3/3132 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Due to the emerging environmental issues related to e-waste there is concern about the quality of paddy soils near e-waste workshops. The levels of heavy metals and PCBs and their influence on the enzyme activity and microbial community of paddy soils obtained from the immediate vicinity of an e-waste workshop were investigated in the present study. The results indicated that the heavy metal and PCB pollution did not differ significantly with an increase of the sampling point distances (5 to 30 m). The concentration of Cd (2.16 mg·kg−1) and Cu (69.2 mg·kg−1) were higher, and the PCB pollution was also serious, ranging from 4.9 to 21.6 μg·kg−1. The highest enzyme activity was found for urease compared to phosphatase and catalase, and a fluctuating trend in soil enzyme activity was observed in soils from different sampling sites. The microbial analysis revealed that there was no apparent correlation between the microbial community and the pollutants. However, a slight influence for soil microbial communities could be found based on DGGE, the Shannon index and PCA analysis. The present study suggests that the contamination stress of heavy metals and PCBs might have a slight influence on microbial activity in paddy soils. This study provides the baseline data for enzyme activities and microbial communities in paddy soil under the influence of mixed contamination.

http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/11/3/3118 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Currently, adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP) is recognized as the extracellular messenger that acts through P2 receptors. P2 receptors are divided into two subtypes: P2Y metabotropic receptors and P2X ionotropic receptors, both of which are found in virtually all mammalian cell types studied. Due to the difficulty in studying membrane protein structures by X-ray crystallography or NMR techniques, there is little information about these structures available in the literature. Two structures of the P2X4 receptor in truncated form have been solved by crystallography. Molecular modeling has proven to be an excellent tool for studying ionotropic receptors. Recently, modeling studies carried out on P2X receptors have advanced our knowledge of the P2X receptor structure-function relationships. This review presents a brief history of ion channel structural studies and shows how modeling approaches can be used to address relevant questions about P2X receptors.

http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/15/3/4531 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Tnfaip8/oxidative stress regulated gene-α (Oxi-α) is a novel protein expressed specifically in brain dopaminergic neurons and its over-expression has been reported to protect dopaminergic cells against OS-induced cell death. In this study, murine C165S mutant Tnfaip8/Oxi-α has been crystallized and X-ray data have been collected to 1.8 Å using synchrotron radiation. The crystal belonged to the primitive orthorhombic space group P21212, with unit-cell parameters a = 66.9, b = 72.3, c = 93.5 Å. A full structural determination is under way in order to provide insights into the structure-function relationships of this protein.

http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/15/3/4523 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Glycoproteins represent the largest group of the growing number of biologically-derived medicines. The associated glycan structures and their distribution are known to have a large impact on pharmacokinetics. A modelling framework was developed to provide a link from the extracellular environment and its effect on intracellular metabolites to the distribution of glycans on the constant region of an antibody product. The main focus of this work is the mechanistic in silico reconstruction of the nucleotide sugar donor (NSD) metabolic network by means of 34 species mass balances and the saturation kinetics rates of the 60 metabolic reactions involved. NSDs are the co-substrates of the glycosylation process in the Golgi apparatus and their simulated dynamic intracellular concentration profiles were linked to an existing model describing the distribution of N-linked glycan structures of the antibody constant region. The modelling framework also describes the growth dynamics of the cell population by means of modified Monod kinetics. Simulation results match well to experimental data from a murine hybridoma cell line. The result is a modelling platform which is able to describe the product glycoform based on extracellular conditions. It represents a first step towards the in silico prediction of the glycoform of a biotherapeutic and provides a platform for the optimisation of bioprocess conditions with respect to product quality.

http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/15/3/4492 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Hepatitis A is a common viral liver disease and brings serious health and economic problems as its epidemiologic pattern changes over time. National serosurveys from developed countries have indicated a decline in HAV (hepatitis A virus) seroprevalence over time due to the improvement of economic and sanitation levels. The hepatitis A virus (HAV) immunity rate was surveyed throughout an eleven-year period by sex and age group in Aveiro District. In this retrospective study, blood samples from patients of Aveiro District, in ambulatory regime, collected at the Clinical Analysis Laboratory Avelab between 2002 and 2012 were screened for the presence of antibodies against HAV antigen using a chemiluminescence immunoassay. The global immunity (positive total anti-HAV) was 60% and only 0.3% of the patients presented recent infection by HAV (positive IgM anti-HAV). The HAV immunity was age-dependent (p < 0.05), but no significant differences (p > 0.05) between sexes were observed. The immunity was similar throughout the study period (p > 0.05). The results of this study indicate that young people (especially under 25 years old) from District of Aveiro are susceptible to HAV infection, constituting a high risk group. The elderly should be also a concern in the future of Hepatitis A infection.

http://www.mdpi.com/1999-4915/6/3/1336 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Hantaviruses are hosted by rodents, insectivores and bats. Several rodent-borne hantaviruses cause two diseases that share many features in humans, hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome in Eurasia or hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome in the Americas. It is thought that the immune response plays a significant contributory role in these diseases. However, in reservoir hosts that have been closely examined, little or no pathology occurs and infection is persistent despite evidence of adaptive immune responses. Because most hantavirus reservoirs are not model organisms, it is difficult to conduct meaningful experiments that might shed light on how the viruses evade sterilizing immune responses and why immunopathology does not occur. Despite these limitations, recent advances in instrumentation and bioinformatics will have a dramatic impact on understanding reservoir host responses to hantaviruses by employing a systems biology approach to identify important pathways that mediate virus/reservoir relationships.

http://www.mdpi.com/1999-4915/6/3/1317 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Seasonal influenza A viruses (IAV) originate from pandemic IAV and have undergone changes in antigenic structure, including addition of glycans to the hemagglutinin (HA) glycoprotein. The viral HA is the major target recognized by neutralizing antibodies and glycans have been proposed to shield antigenic sites on HA, thereby promoting virus survival in the face of widespread vaccination and/or infection. However, addition of glycans can also interfere with the receptor binding properties of HA and this must be compensated for by additional mutations, creating a fitness barrier to accumulation of glycosylation sites. In addition, glycans on HA are also recognized by phylogenetically ancient lectins of the innate immune system and the benefit provided by evasion of humoral immunity is balanced by attenuation of infection. Therefore, a fine balance must exist regarding the optimal pattern of HA glycosylation to offset competing pressures associated with recognition by innate defenses, evasion of humoral immunity and maintenance of virus fitness. In this review, we examine HA glycosylation patterns of IAV associated with pandemic and seasonal influenza and discuss recent advancements in our understanding of interactions between IAV glycans and components of innate and adaptive immunity.

http://www.mdpi.com/1999-4915/6/3/1294 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Hantaan virus was discovered in Korea during the 1970s while other similar viruses were later reported in Asia and Europe. There was no information about hantavirus human infection in the Americas until 1993 when an outbreak was described in the United States. This event promoted new studies to find hantaviruses in the Americas. At first, many studies were conducted in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay, while other Latin American countries began to report the presence of these agents towards the end of the 20th century. More than 30 hantaviruses have been reported in the Western Hemisphere with more frequent cases registered in the southern cone (Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil). However there was an important outbreak in 2000 in Panama and some rare events have been described in Peru, Venezuela and French Guiana. Since hantaviruses have only recently emerged as a potential threat in the tropical zones of the Americas, this review compiles recent hantavirus reports in Central America, the Caribbean islands and the northern region of South America. These studies have generated the discovery of new hantaviruses and could help to anticipate the presentation of possible future outbreaks in the region.

http://www.mdpi.com/1999-4915/6/3/1274 2014/03/14 - 14:59

The large expansion of the robotic field in the last decades has created a growing interest in the research and development of tactile sensing solutions for robot hand and body integration. Piezoresistive composites are one of the most widely employed materials for this purpose, combining simple and low cost preparation with high flexibility and conformability to surfaces, low power consumption, and the use of simple read-out electronics. This work provides a review on the different type of composite materials, classified according to the conduction mechanism and analyzing the physics behind it. In particular piezoresistors, strain gauges, percolative and quantum tunnelling devices are reviewed here, with a perspective overview on the most used filler types and polymeric matrices. A description of the state-of-the-art of the tactile sensor solutions from the point of view of the architecture, the design and the performance is also reviewed, with a perspective outlook on the main promising applications.

http://www.mdpi.com/1424-8220/14/3/5296 2014/03/14 - 14:59

In this paper, a precise real-time temperature control system based on infrared (IR) thermometry for domestic induction cooking is presented. The temperature in the vessel constitutes the control variable of the closed-loop power control system implemented in a commercial induction cooker. A proportional-integral controller is applied to establish the output power level in order to reach the target temperature. An optical system and a signal conditioning circuit have been implemented. For the signal processing a microprocessor with 12-bit ADC and a sampling rate of 1 Ksps has been used. The analysis of the contributions to the infrared radiation permits the definition of a procedure to estimate the temperature of the vessel with a maximum temperature error of 5 °C in the range between 60 and 250 °C for a known cookware emissivity. A simple and necessary calibration procedure with a black-body sample is presented.

http://www.mdpi.com/1424-8220/14/3/5278 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) are rising at an accelerated rate resulting in changes in the pH and carbonate chemistry of the world’s oceans. However, there is uncertainty regarding the impact these changing environmental conditions have on carbonate-depositing microbial communities. Here, we examine the effects of elevated CO2, three times that of current atmospheric levels, on the microbial diversity associated with lithifying microbial mats. Lithifying microbial mats are complex ecosystems that facilitate the trapping and binding of sediments, and/or the precipitation of calcium carbonate into organosedimentary structures known as microbialites. To examine the impact of rising CO2 and resulting shifts in pH on lithifying microbial mats, we constructed growth chambers that could continually manipulate and monitor the mat environment. The microbial diversity of the various treatments was compared using 16S rRNA gene pyrosequencing. The results indicated that elevated CO2 levels during the six month exposure did not profoundly alter the microbial diversity, community structure, or carbonate precipitation in the microbial mats; however some key taxa, such as the sulfate-reducing bacteria Deltasulfobacterales, were enriched. These results suggest that some carbonate depositing ecosystems, such as the microbialites, may be more resilient to anthropogenic-induced environmental change than previously thought.

http://www.mdpi.com/2075-163X/4/1/145 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Several studies have investigated the differentiation of mitochondrial DNA in Eurasian, African and American cattle as well as archaeological bovine material. A global survey of these studies shows that haplogroup distributions are more stable in time than in space. All major migrations of cattle have shifted the haplogroup distributions considerably with a reduction of the number of haplogroups and/or an expansion of haplotypes that are rare or absent in the ancestral populations. The most extreme case is the almost exclusive colonization of Africa by the T1 haplogroup, which is rare in Southwest Asian cattle. In contrast, ancient samples invariably show continuity with present-day cattle from the same location. These findings indicate strong maternal founder effects followed by limited maternal gene flow when new territories are colonized. However, effects of adaptation to new environments may also play a role.

http://www.mdpi.com/1424-2818/6/1/178 2014/03/14 - 14:59

The sphingolipids are one of the major lipid families in eukaryotes, incorporating a diverse array of structural variants that exert a powerful influence over cell fate and physiology. Increased expression of sphingosine kinase 1 (SPHK1), which catalyses the synthesis of the pro-survival, pro-angiogenic metabolite sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P), is well established as a hallmark of multiple cancers. Metabolic alterations that reduce levels of the pro-apoptotic lipid ceramide, particularly its glucosylation by glucosylceramide synthase (GCS), have frequently been associated with cancer drug resistance. However, the simple notion that the balance between ceramide and S1P, often referred to as the sphingolipid rheostat, dictates cell survival contrasts with recent studies showing that highly potent and selective SPHK1 inhibitors do not affect cancer cell proliferation or survival, and studies demonstrating higher ceramide levels in some metastatic cancers. Recent reports have implicated other sphingolipid metabolic enzymes such as acid sphingomyelinase (ASM) more strongly in cancer pathogenesis, and highlight lysosomal sphingolipid metabolism as a possible weak point for therapeutic targeting in cancer. This review describes the evidence implicating different sphingolipid metabolic enzymes and their products in cancer pathogenesis, and suggests how newer systems-level approaches may improve our overall understanding of how oncogenic transformation reconfigures sphingolipid metabolism.

http://www.mdpi.com/2218-273X/4/1/315 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Here, I suggest we must invest our scientific resources in brain research. Scientists interested in human (and non-human) intelligence should frame their key questions regarding where to look and where to go around technical advances related to the fascinating, general purpose, highly dynamic device we call the ‘brain’.

http://www.mdpi.com/2079-3200/2/1/26 2014/03/14 - 14:59

The attachment and arrangement of microbes onto a substrate is influenced by both the biochemical and physical surface properties. In this report, we develop lectin-functionalized substrates containing patterned, three-dimensional polymeric structures of varied shapes and densities and use these to investigate the effects of topology and spatial confinement on lectin-mediated microbe immobilization. Films of poly(glycidyl methacrylate)-block-4,4-dimethyl-2-vinylazlactone (PGMA-b-PVDMA) were patterned on silicon surfaces into line arrays or square grid patterns with 5 μm wide features and varied pitch. The patterned films had three-dimensional geometries with 900 nm film thickness. After surface functionalization with wheat germ agglutinin, the size of Pseudomonas fluorescens aggregates immobilized was dependent on the pattern dimensions. Films patterned as parallel lines or square grids with a pitch of 10 μm or less led to the immobilization of individual microbes with minimal formation of aggregates. Both geometries allowed for incremental increases in aggregate size distribution with each increase in pitch. These engineered surfaces combine spatial confinement with affinity-based capture to control the extent of microbe adhesion and aggregation, and can also be used as a platform to investigate intercellular interactions and biofilm formation in microbial populations of controlled sizes.

http://www.mdpi.com/2079-6374/4/1/63 2014/03/14 - 14:59

A new approach to solving the Time-Dependent Self-Consistent-Field equations is developed based on the double quotient formulation of Tsiper 2001 (J. Phys. B). Dual channel, quasi-independent non-linear optimization of these quotients is found to yield convergence rates approaching those of the best case (single channel) Tamm-Dancoff approximation. This formulation is variational with respect to matrix truncation, admitting linear scaling solution of the matrix-eigenvalue problem, which is demonstrated for bulk excitons in the polyphenylene vinylene oligomer and the (4,3) carbon nanotube segment.

http://www.mdpi.com/2079-3197/2/1/1 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Every year millions of young people are treated with anaesthetic agents for surgery and sedation in a seemingly safe manner. However, growing and convincing preclinical evidence in rodents and nonhuman primates, together with recent epidemiological observations, suggest that exposure to anaesthetics in common clinical use can be neurotoxic to the developing brain and lead to long-term neurological sequelae. These findings have seriously questioned the safe use of general anaesthetics in obstetric and paediatric patients. The mechanisms and human applicability of anaesthetic neurotoxicity and neuroprotection have remained under intense investigation over the past decade. Ongoing pre-clinical investigation may have significant impact on clinical practice in the near future. This review represents recent developments in this rapidly emerging field. The aim is to summarise recently available laboratory data, especially those being published after 2010, in the field of anaesthetics-induced neurotoxicity and its impact on cognitive function. In addition, we will discuss recent findings in mechanisms of early-life anaesthetics-induced neurotoxicity, the role of human stem cell-derived models in detecting such toxicity, and new potential alleviating strategies.

http://www.mdpi.com/2076-3425/4/1/136 2014/03/14 - 14:59

Pollen grain and spore shells are natural microcapsules designed to protect the genetic material of the plant from external damage. The shell is made up of two layers, the inner layer (intine), made largely of cellulose, and the outer layer (exine), composed mainly of sporopollenin. The relative proportion of each varies according to the plant species. The structure of sporopollenin has not been fully characterised but different studies suggest the presence of conjugated phenols, which provide antioxidant properties to the microcapsule and UV (ultraviolet) protection to the material inside it. These microcapsule shells have many advantageous properties, such as homogeneity in size, resilience to both alkalis and acids, and the ability to withstand temperatures up to 250 °C. These hollow microcapsules have the ability to encapsulate and release actives in a controlled manner. Their mucoadhesion to intestinal tissues may contribute to the extended contact of the sporopollenin with the intestinal mucosa leading to an increased efficiency of delivery of nutraceuticals and drugs. The hollow microcapsules can be filled with a solution of the active or active in a liquid form by simply mixing both together, and in some cases operating a vacuum. The active payload can be released in the human body depending on pressure on the microcapsule, solubility and/or pH factors. Active release can be controlled by adding a coating on the shell, or co-encapsulation with the active inside the shell.

http://www.mdpi.com/1999-4923/6/1/80 2014/03/14 - 14:59

We analyze the properties of various methods for bias-correcting parameter estimates in both stationary and non-stationary vector autoregressive models. First, we show that two analytical bias formulas from the existing literature are in fact identical. Next, based on a detailed simulation study, we show that when the model is stationary this simple bias formula compares very favorably to bootstrap bias-correction, both in terms of bias and mean squared error. In non-stationary models, the analytical bias formula performs noticeably worse than bootstrapping. Both methods yield a notable improvement over ordinary least squares. We pay special attention to the risk of pushing an otherwise stationary model into the non-stationary region of the parameter space when correcting for bias. Finally, we consider a recently proposed reduced-bias weighted least squares estimator, and we find that it compares very favorably in non-stationary models.

http://www.mdpi.com/2225-1146/2/1/45 2014/03/14 - 14:59

In this study, we proposed a method to determine the optimal focal position for micro-holographic storage systems, using vector diffraction theory; the theory provides exact solutions when the numerical aperture (NA) exceeds 0.6. The best diffraction focus was determined by the position and wavelength corresponding to minimal spherical aberration. The calculated refractive index modulation, polarization illumination, and boundary conditions at the interface of different media were analyzed. From the results of our analysis, we could confirm the size of micrograting as a function of NA and wavelength, based on vector diffraction theory, compared with scalar diffraction theory which defines the micrograting by . To demonstrate our analysis, we adapted an optical alignment method using a Twyman-Green interferometer, and could obtain good agreement between analysis and experimental results.

http://www.mdpi.com/2076-3417/4/1/57 2014/03/14 - 14:59