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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 this study, silicon nitride (SiNx) thin films were deposited on polyimide (PI) substrates as barrier layers by a plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD) system. The gallium-doped zinc oxide (GZO) thin films were deposited on PI and SiNx/PI substrates at room temperature (RT), 100 and 200 °C by radio frequency (RF) magnetron sputtering. The thicknesses of the GZO and SiNx thin films were controlled at around 160 ± 12 nm and 150 ± 10 nm, respectively. The optimal deposition parameters for the SiNx thin films were a working pressure of 800 × 10−3 Torr, a deposition power of 20 W, a deposition temperature of 200 °C, and gas flowing rates of SiH4 = 20 sccm and NH3 = 210 sccm, respectively. For the GZO/PI and GZO-SiNx/PI structures we had found that the GZO thin films deposited at 100 and 200 °C had higher crystallinity, higher electron mobility, larger carrier concentration, smaller resistivity, and higher optical transmittance ratio. For that, the GZO thin films deposited at 100 and 200 °C on PI and SiNx/PI substrates with thickness of ~1000 nm were used to fabricate p-i-n hydrogenated amorphous silicon (α-Si) thin film solar cells. 0.5% HCl solution was used to etch the surfaces of the GZO/PI and GZO-SiNx/PI substrates. Finally, PECVD system was used to deposit α-Si thin film onto the etched surfaces of the GZO/PI and GZO-SiNx/PI substrates to fabricate α-Si thin film solar cells, and the solar cells’ properties were also investigated. We had found that substrates to get the optimally solar cells’ efficiency were 200 °C-deposited GZO-SiNx/PI.

http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1944/7/2/948 2014/02/09 - 18:47

Food safety organizations indicate the likelihood of constant human and animal exposure to mycotoxin mixtures as a possible negative public health impact. Risk assessment demonstrates that certain mycotoxins of Aspergillus and Penicillium spp. are toxic and hold a significant genotoxic efficacy at nanomolar concentrations. The aim of the current study was to investigate the potential cytogenetic effects of sterigmatocystin (STER), ochratoxin A (OTA) and citrinin (CTN) alone or in combination, at pM to μΜ concentrations, on the human hepatocellular cancer cell line Hep3B. MTT reduction, mitotic divisions, cell cycle delays and sister chromatid exchange rates (SCE) were determined as endpoints of metabolic activity, cytotoxicity, cytostaticity, and genotoxicity, respectively. All mycotoxin treatments induce SCE rates from 10−12 M, while their cytotoxic and cytostatic potential varies. In PRI and MI assays, but not at MTT, STER alone or in combination with OTA + CTN appeared cytostatic and cytotoxic, even at 10−12 M, while CTN alone and all other combinations displayed substantial cellular survival inhibition in doses ≥ 10−8 M. Co-administration of STER + OTA or STER + CTN in concentrations ≤ 10−1 M, increased the MI and MTT activity, while it did not affect the PRI. Mycotoxin co-treatments revealed in general similar-to-additive or antagonistic genotoxic and cytotoxic effects. Our results for the first time describe that STER alone or in combination with OTA and/or CTN share a cytotoxic and cytogenetic potential even at picoMolar concentrations on human hepatoma cells in vitro.

http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/11/2/1855 2014/02/09 - 18:47

Acinetobacter baumannii is a multidrug resistant pathogen capable of causing a wide spectrum of clinical conditions in humans. Acinetobacter spp. is ubiquitously found in different water sources. Chlorine being the most commonly used disinfectant in water, the study investigated the effect of chlorine on the survival of A. baumannii in water and transcription of genes conferring antibiotic resistance. Eight clinical isolates of A. baumannii, including a fatal meningitis isolate (ATCC 17978) (~108 CFU/mL) were separately exposed to free chlorine concentrations (0.2, 1, 2, 3 and 4 ppm) with a contact time of 30, 60, 90 and 120 second. The surviving pathogen counts at each specified contact time were determined using broth dilution assay. In addition, real-time quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) analysis of the antibiotic resistance genes (efflux pump genes and those encoding resistance to specific antibiotics) of three selected A. baumannii strains following exposure to chlorine was performed. Results revealed that all eight A. baumannii isolates survived the tested chlorine levels during all exposure times (p > 0.05). Additionally, there was an up-regulation of all or some of the antibiotic resistance genes in A. baumannii, indicating a chlorine-associated induction of antibiotic resistance in the pathogen.

http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/11/2/1844 2014/02/09 - 18:47

Background: The current “epidemic” of childhood obesity is described as being driven by modern lifestyles with associated socioeconomic and environmental changes that modify dietary habits, discourage physical activity and encourage sedentary behaviors. Objective: To evaluate the association between household income and the availability of electronic devices and transport at home, and the values of waist circumference (WC), as an indicator of abdominal obesity, in children and adolescents from Bucaramanga, Colombia. Methods: Cross-sectional study of public elementary and high school population, of low-middle socioeconomic status. Results: A total of 668 schoolchildren were recruited. After adjusting for potential confounders, significant positive associations between waist circumference and higher household income (p = 0.011), and waist circumference and the availability of electronic devices and transport at home (p = 0.026) were found. Conclusions: In low-middle socioeconomic status schoolchildren in a developing country, those from relatively more affluent families had greater waist circumference, an association that is opposite to that observed in developed countries. This finding could be related to higher income family’s ability to purchase electronic devices and motorized transport which discourage physical activity and for their children to buy desirable and more costly western fast food.

http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/11/2/1834 2014/02/09 - 18:47

Conditions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo provide an ideal environment for leptospirosis and plague, both of which can cause severe pulmonary manifestations. In December 2004, an outbreak of lethal pneumonia occurred in a local mining camp, affecting 130 persons and killing 57 of them. Clinical signs, fast disease spread, and initial laboratory investigations suggested pneumonic plague. While leptospirosis had not recently been described in the region, it was considered as a differential diagnosis. Anti-Leptospira antibodies were detected by microscopic agglutination test (MAT). A confirmed case of leptospirosis was defined as having consistent clinical signs and any one of the following: seroconversion or four-fold increase in MAT titre for paired serum samples, or a MAT titre ≥ 1:400 for acute-phase serum samples. Twenty-nine of the 54 patients or convalescents tested for leptospirosis were seropositive. Two cases showed a confirmed infection for both plague and leptospirosis. While evidence supports the plague nature of this outbreak, the results suggest that some of the suspected plague cases might be due to leptospirosis. In any case, this diagnosis will have to be evoked in the future if a similar outbreak occurs in this region of Africa.

http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/11/2/1824 2014/02/09 - 18:47

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are undifferentiated cells with an unlimited capacity for self-renewal and able to differentiate towards specific lineages under appropriate conditions. MSCs are, a priori, a good target for cell therapy and clinical trials as an alternative to embryonic stem cells, avoiding ethical problems and the chance for malignant transformation in the host. However, regarding MSCs, several biological implications must be solved before their application in cell therapy, such as safe ex vivo expansion and manipulation to obtain an extensive cell quantity amplification number for use in the host without risk accumulation of genetic and epigenetic abnormalities. Cell surface markers for direct characterization of MSCs remain unknown, and the precise molecular mechanisms whereby growth factors stimulate their differentiation are still missing. In the last decade, quantitative proteomics has emerged as a promising set of techniques to address these questions, the answers to which will determine whether MSCs retain their potential for use in cell therapy. Proteomics provides tools to globally analyze cellular activity at the protein level. This proteomic profiling allows the elucidation of connections between broad cellular pathways and molecules that were previously impossible to determine using only traditional biochemical analysis. However; thus far, the results obtained must be orthogonally validated with other approaches. This review will focus on how these techniques have been applied in the evaluation of MSCs for their future applications in safe therapies.

http://www.mdpi.com/2227-7382/2/1/53 2014/02/09 - 18:47

Every finite-dimensional unitary representation of the N-extended world line supersymmetry without central charges may be obtained by a sequence of differential transformations from a direct sum of minimal Adinkras, simple supermultiplets that are identifiable with representations of the Clifford algebra. The data specifying this procedure is a sequence of subspaces of the direct sum of Adinkras, which then opens an avenue for the classification of the continuum of the so-constructed off-shell supermultiplets.

http://www.mdpi.com/2073-8994/6/1/67 2014/02/07 - 22:56

Geospatial modeling is an approach to apply analysis to monitor environmental change over time considering different fields of re-search, including computer science, remote sensing, ecology, environmental science, life science, geography (see [1,2] for a critique). The special issue was instigated to publish straightforward research on the matter in order to stimulate further discussion on the potential of geospatial modelling. Both theoretical and empirical papers are part of the issue with the support of the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, promoting an advanced forum for the science and technology of geographic information.

http://www.mdpi.com/2220-9964/3/1/206 2014/02/06 - 16:26

The modeling, analysis and visualization of dynamic geospatial phenomenahas been identified as a key developmental challenge for next-generation GeographicInformation Systems (GIS). In this context, the envisaged paradigmatic extensions tocontemporary foundational GIS technology raises fundamental questions concerning theontological, formal representational and (analytical) computational methods that wouldunderlie their spatial information theoretic underpinnings. We present the conceptualoverview and architecture for the development of high-level semantic and qualitativeanalytical capabilities for dynamic geospatial domains. Building on formal methods in theareas of commonsense reasoning, qualitative reasoning, spatial and temporal representationand reasoning, reasoning about actions and change and computational models of narrative,we identify concrete theoretical and practical challenges that accrue in the context offormal reasoning about space, events, actions and change. With this as a basis and withinthe backdrop of an illustrated scenario involving the spatio-temporal dynamics of urbannarratives, we address specific problems and solution techniques chiefly involving qualitativeabstraction, data integration and spatial consistency and practical geospatial abduction.

http://www.mdpi.com/2220-9964/3/1/166 2014/02/06 - 16:26

A nanocrystalline SnO2 thin film was synthesized by a chemical bath method. The parameters affecting the energy band gap and surface morphology of the deposited SnO2 thin film were optimized using a semi-empirical method. Four parameters, including deposition time, pH, bath temperature and tin chloride (SnCl2·2H2O) concentration were optimized by a factorial method. The factorial used a Taguchi OA (TOA) design method to estimate certain interactions and obtain the actual responses. Statistical evidences in analysis of variance including high F-value (4,112.2 and 20.27), very low P-value (<0.012 and 0.0478), non-significant lack of fit, the determination coefficient (R2 equal to 0.978 and 0.977) and the adequate precision (170.96 and 12.57) validated the suggested model. The optima of the suggested model were verified in the laboratory and results were quite close to the predicted values, indicating that the model successfully simulated the optimum conditions of SnO2 thin film synthesis.

http://www.mdpi.com/1424-8220/14/2/2549 2014/02/06 - 16:26

This article explores the place of William Fowler’s translation of Machiavelli’s Prince in the Scottish Jacobean polysystem. Even if it was never finished, Fowler may have seen his rendering of Il Principe as a way of gaining King James’s favor at a time when Fowler had become a peripheral member at the sovereign’s court. Consequently, the translator’s hybrid deployment of three different sources, together with his own additions and suppressions, were aimed to conform to James VI’s political and cultural project. The ideological convergences between the king’s political thought and Fowler’s manipulated Prince supported and legitimized the existing power structures of the target culture. The unfinished/unedited state of the manuscript may suggest that a total reconciliation between James’s markedly idealized vision of kingship and government and Machiavelli’s treatise was impossible despite the translator’s intercultural and ethnocentric appropriation of the source text.

http://www.mdpi.com/2076-0787/3/1/42 2014/02/06 - 16:26

The pulmonary administration of pharmaceutical aerosols to patients is affected by age-dependent variations in the anatomy of the upper airways and the inhalation pattern. Considering this aspect, different upper airway models, representing the geometries of adults and preschool children, and a conventional induction port according to the European Pharmacopeia were used for in vitro testing of dry powder inhalers with single dosed capsules (Cyclohaler®, Handihaler® and Spinhaler®). Deposition measurements were performed using steady flow rates of 30 and 60 L/min for the Handihaler®/Spinhaler® and 30, 60 and 75 L/min for the Cyclohaler®. The inhalation volume was set at 1 L. For the Cyclohaler®, the in vitro testing was supplemented by a pediatric inhalation profile. Slight differences of pulmonary deposition between the idealized adult (11%–15%) and pediatric (9%–11%) upper airway model were observed for the Cyclohaler®. The applied pediatric inhalation profile resulted in a reduction of pulmonary deposition by 5% compared to steady conditions and indicated the influence of the inhalation pattern on the amount of pulmonary deposited particles. The comparison of two pediatric upper airway models showed no differences. The performance of the Handihaler® was similar to the Cyclohaler®. The Spinhaler® showed an insufficient performance and limited reproducibility in our investigations.

http://www.mdpi.com/1999-4923/6/1/36 2014/02/06 - 16:26

Ectophosphatases are surface membrane-bound proteins whose active sites face the extracellular medium. These enzymes have been reported in several microorganisms including a large number of medically relevant fungal species. An effective technique for identifying ectophosphatases is performing phosphatase activity assays using living intact cells. Biochemical characterization of these activities has shown their differential modulation by classical phosphatase inhibitors, divalent metals and pH range. The physiological roles of ectophosphatases are not well established; however, it has been suggested that these enzymes play important roles in nutrition, proliferation, differentiation, adhesion, virulence and infection. Adhesion to host cells is the first step in establishing a fungal infection and ectophosphatases may be one of the first parasite proteins that come into contact with the host cells. Several results indicate that ectophosphatase activities increase the capacity of fungi to adhere to the host cells. In this context, the present review provides an overview of recent discoveries related to the occurrence and possible roles of ectophosphatase activities in fungal cells.

http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/15/2/2289 2014/02/06 - 16:26

Viruses can persist in differentiated cells (i.e., macrophages) over long periods of time, altering host cells functions but not inducing their death. We had previously reported that, in early passages (14–40) of a murine macrophage-like cell line persistently infected with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) (MfP), FcgR-mediated phagocytosis and expression of FcgRIIB/RIII on the cell membrane were increased with respect to mock-infected macrophages (MfN). In this work, we explored the mechanism underlying such effects. Increases in FcgR expression and FcgR-mediated phagocytosis are preserved after more than 87 passages of the persistently infected culture. We analyzed the expression of FcgR isoforms at both mRNA and protein levels, and found out that RSV persistence distinctly affects the expression of FcgR isoforms. We also observed that the increase in FcgRs expression results neither from soluble factors (cytokines) or viral products released by the infected cells, nor from an increase in the rate of FcgR internalization. Our results suggest that RSV persistence in macrophages induce intracellular effects that have an impact on FcgRs gene expression at both mRNA and protein levels, and that the characteristics of RSV persistence were preserved for over 87 passages.

http://www.mdpi.com/1999-4915/6/2/624 2014/02/06 - 16:26

Bionics are a set of technology products that are constantly evolving. Bionics are proposed as body add-ons or replacement for many body parts (ears, eyes, knees, neural prostheses, joints, muscles, kidney, liver, cartilage lungs, discs, pancreas, dental pulp, skin, hippocampus, legs and hands), and functions such as speech. Two main applications of bionic products are discussed; one being for the restoration of body abilities to a species-typical norm and the other being the addition of abilities to the body that are not species-typical. Disabled people are one main group perceived to be in need of therapeutic interventions that use various bionic products. So far, therapeutic interventions are about restoration to the species-typical norm. However, therapeutic bionic products increasingly give the wearer beyond normal body abilities (therapeutic enhancements). Many so-called non-disabled people want the same enhanced body-abilities especially through non-invasive bionic products (e.g., non-invasive brain machine interfaces, exoskeletons). The media has the ability to shape public perceptions with numerous consequences. The purpose of this study was to provide quantitative and qualitative data on how bionic technologies and its users are portrayed in North American newspapers. Data was obtained from 1977 to 2013 from the Canadian Newsstand complete database which covers over 300 English language Canadian newspapers and two Canadian newspapers, one with national focus (The Globe and Mail) and one with local focus (Calgary Herald), and from 1980–2013 from one American newspaper with national reach (The New York Times). The study found (a) an almost always positive portrayal of bionics; (b) coverage of bionics mostly within a medical framework; (c) a predominantly stereotypical and negative portrayal of individuals with disabilities; and (d) a hierarchy of worthiness between different assistive devices such as a reporting bias favoring artificial legs over wheelchairs. At the same time the study did not find any engagement with social and ethical issues that are already raised about bionics in the literature, such as the increasing desire for enhancements, the use of bionics for non-therapeutic purposes and the issues socially disadvantaged people might face in the wake of bionic advancements. We posit that the newspapers generate a bionic discourse culture that is problematic for disabled people and other socially disadvantaged groups and that they do not prepare readers for the challenges that bionic advancements will pose for the general population in the future.

http://www.mdpi.com/2227-7080/2/1/1 2014/02/06 - 16:26

This review describes the use of ultrasound for inducing and retaining cell-cell contact in multi-well microplates combined with live-cell fluorescence microscopy. This platform has been used for studying the interaction between natural killer (NK) cells and cancer cells at the level of individual cells. The review includes basic principles of ultrasonic particle manipulation, design criteria when building a multi-well microplate device for this purpose, biocompatibility aspects, and finally, two examples of biological applications: Dynamic imaging of the inhibitory immune synapse, and studies of the heterogeneity in killing dynamics of NK cells interacting with cancer cells.

http://www.mdpi.com/2072-666X/5/1/27 2014/02/06 - 16:26

Bioassay-guided fractionation of an ethanol extract of the pericarps of Garcinia mangostana led to the isolation of two new prenylated xanthones, named 1,3,7-trihydroxy-2-(3-methyl-2-butenyl)-8-(3-hydroxy-3-methylbutyl)-xanthone (1) and 1,3,8-trihydroxy-2-(3-methyl-2-butenyl)-4-(3-hydroxy-3-methylbutanoyl)-xanthone (2), together with the five known compounds garcinones C (3) and D (4), gartanin (5), xanthone I (6), and γ-mangostin (7). Their structures were elucidated primarily based on MS and NMR data. Compounds 1–7 showed significant cytotoxic activities against various human cancer cell lines.

http://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/19/2/1820 2014/02/06 - 16:26

Lanthanide-doped upconversion-luminescent nanoparticles (UCNPs), which can be excited by near-infrared (NIR) laser irradiation to emit multiplex light, have been proven to be very useful for in vitro and in vivo molecular imaging studies. In comparison with the conventionally used down-conversion fluorescence imaging strategies, the NIR light excited luminescence of UCNPs displays high photostability, low cytotoxicity, little background auto-fluorescence, which allows for deep tissue penetration, making them attractive as contrast agents for biomedical imaging applications. In this review, we will mainly focus on the latest development of a new type of lanthanide-doped UCNP material and its main applications for in vitro and in vivo molecular imaging and we will also discuss the challenges and future perspectives.

http://www.mdpi.com/2079-4991/4/1/129 2014/02/06 - 16:26

Since the emergence of West Nile virus (WNV) in North America in 1999, understanding of the clinical features, spectrum of illness and eventual functional outcomes of human illness has increased tremendously. Most human infections with WNV remain clinically silent. Among those persons developing symptomatic illness, most develop a self-limited febrile illness. More severe illness with WNV (West Nile neuroinvasive disease, WNND) is manifested as meningitis, encephalitis or an acute anterior (polio) myelitis. These manifestations are generally more prevalent in older persons or those with immunosuppression. In the future, a more thorough understanding of the long-term physical, cognitive and functional outcomes of persons recovering from WNV illness will be important in understanding the overall illness burden.

http://www.mdpi.com/1999-4915/6/2/606 2014/02/06 - 16:26

Like other herpesviruses, human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) contains a unique proteinaceous layer between the virion envelope and capsid, termed the tegument. Upon infection, the contents of the tegument layer are delivered to the host cell, along with the capsid and the viral genome, where they facilitate the initial stages of virus replication. The tegument proteins also play important roles in virion assembly and this dual nature makes them attractive potential targets for antiviral therapies. While our knowledge regarding tegument protein function during the initiation of infection has been the subject of intense study, their roles in assembly are much less well understood. In this review, we will focus on recent studies that highlight the functions of HCMV tegument proteins during assembly, and pose key questions for further investigation.

http://www.mdpi.com/1999-4915/6/2/582 2014/02/06 - 16:26

Influenza A virus is a successful parasite and requires host factors to complete its life cycle. Prop5 is an antisense oligonucleotide, targeting programmed cell death protein 5 (PDCD5). In this study, we tested the antiviral activity of prop5 against mouse-adapted A/FM/1/47 strain of influenza A virus in a mouse model. Prop5 intranasally administered the mice at dosages of 10 and 20 mg/kg/d at 24 h and 30 min before infection, provided 80% and 100% survival rates and prolonged mean survival days in comparison with influenza virus-infected mice (both p < 0.01). Moreover, viral titres in mice pretreated with prop5, at dose of 10 and 20 mg/kg/d, had declined significantly on day two, four, and six post-infection compared with the yields in infected mice (p < 0.05 or p < 0.01); lung index in mice pretreated with prop5 (20 mg/kg/d) had been inhibited on day six post-infection (p < 0.05). Western blotting and immunohistochemistry showed that prop5 could down-regulate the PDCD5 protein expression levels in lung tissues of infected mice. These data indicate that antisense oligonucleotide prop5 is a promising drug for prophylaxis and control influenza virus infections and provides an insight into the host-pathogen interaction.

http://www.mdpi.com/1999-4915/6/2/573 2014/02/06 - 16:26

Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) infection is a global public health problem affecting over 160 million individuals worldwide. Its symptoms include chronic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. HCV is an enveloped RNA virus mainly targeting liver cells and for which the initiation of infection occurs through a complex multistep process involving a series of specific cellular entry factors. This process is likely mediated through the formation of a tightly orchestrated complex of HCV entry factors at the plasma membrane. Among HCV entry factors, the tetraspanin CD81 is one of the best characterized and it is undoubtedly a key player in the HCV lifecycle. In this review, we detail the current knowledge on the involvement of CD81 in the HCV lifecycle, as well as in the immune response to HCV infection.

http://www.mdpi.com/1999-4915/6/2/535 2014/02/06 - 16:26

DNA sequence variations include nucleotide substitution, deletion, insertion, translocation and inversion. Deletion or insertion of a large DNA segment in the genome, referred to as copy number variation (CNV), has caught the attention of many researchers recently. It is believed that CNVs contribute significantly to genome variability, and thus contribute to phenotypic variability. In chickens, genome-wide surveys with array comparative genome hybridization (aCGH), SNP chip detection or whole genome sequencing have revealed a large number of CNVs. A large portion of chicken CNVs involves protein coding or regulatory sequences. A few CNVs have been demonstrated to be the determinant factors for single gene traits, such as late-feathering, pea-comb and dermal hyperpigmentation. The phenotypic effects of the majority of chicken CNVs are to be delineated.

http://www.mdpi.com/2076-3905/3/1/24 2014/02/06 - 16:26

To understand the characteristics of severe floods under global climate change, we created a design hyetograph for a 100-year return period. This incorporates a modified ranking method using the top 10 extreme rainfall events for present, near-future, and far-future periods. The rainfall data sets were projected with a general circulation model with high spatial and temporal resolution and used with a flood model to simulate the higher discharge peaks for the top 10 events of each term in a local watershed. The conventional-like ranking method, in which only a dimensionless shape is considered for the creation of a design hyetograph for a temporal distribution of rainfall, likely results in overestimates of discharge peaks because, even with a lower peak of rainfall intensity and a smaller amount of cumulative rainfall, the distribution shape is the only the factor for the design hyetograph. However, the modified ranking method, which considers amounts of cumulative rainfalls, provides a discharge peak from the design hyetograph less affected by a smaller cumulative rainfall depth for extreme rainfall. Furthermore, the effects of global climate change indicate that future discharge peaks will increase by up to three times of those of Present-term peaks, which may result in difficult flood control for the downstream river reaches.

http://www.mdpi.com/2073-4441/6/2/345 2014/02/06 - 16:26

Since the global oil crisis in the 1970s, Denmark has followed a path towards energy independency by continuously improving its energy efficiency and energy conservation. Energy efficiency was mainly tackled by introducing a high number of combined heat and power plants in the system, while energy conservation was predominantly approached by implementing heat saving measures. Today, with the goal of 100% renewable energy within the power and heat sector by the year 2035, reductions in energy demand for space heating and the preparation of domestic hot water remain at the top of the agenda in Denmark. A highly detailed model for determining heat demand, possible heat savings and associated costs in the Danish building stock is presented. Both scheduled and energy-saving renovations until year 2030 have been analyzed. The highly detailed GIS-based heat atlas for Denmark is used as a container for storing data about physical properties for 2.5 million buildings in Denmark. Consequently, the results of the analysis can be represented on a single building level. Under the assumption that buildings with the most profitable heat savings are renovated first, the consequences of heat savings for the economy and energy system have been quantified and geographically referenced. The possibilities for further improvements of the model and the application to other geographical regions have been discussed.

http://www.mdpi.com/2220-9964/3/1/143 2014/02/06 - 16:26

The presence of phorbol esters (PEs) with toxic properties limits the use of Jatropha curcas kernel in the animal feed industry. Therefore, suitable methods to detoxify PEs have to be developed to render the material safe as a feed ingredient. In the present study, the biological treatment of the extracted PEs-rich fraction with non-pathogenic fungi (Trichoderma harzianum JQ350879.1, T. harzianum JQ517493.1, Paecilomyces sinensis JQ350881.1, Cladosporium cladosporioides JQ517491.1, Fusarium chlamydosporum JQ350882.1, F. chlamydosporum JQ517492.1 and F. chlamydosporum JQ350880.1) was conducted by fermentation in broth cultures. The PEs were detected by liquid chromatography-diode array detector-electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (LC-DAD-ESIMS) and quantitatively monitored by HPLC using phorbol-12-myristate 13-acetate as the standard. At day 30 of incubation, two T. harzianum spp., P. sinensis and C. cladosporioides significantly (p < 0.05) removed PEs with percentage losses of 96.9%–99.7%, while F. chlamydosporum strains showed percentage losses of 88.9%–92.2%. All fungal strains could utilize the PEs-rich fraction for growth. In the cytotoxicity assay, cell viabilities of Chang liver and NIH 3T3 fibroblast cell lines were less than 1% with the untreated PEs-rich fraction, but 84.3%–96.5% with the fungal treated PEs-rich fraction. There was no inhibition on cell viability for normal fungal growth supernatants. To conclude, Trichoderma spp., Paecilomyces sp. and Cladosporium sp. are potential microbes for the detoxification of PEs.

http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/15/2/2274 2014/02/06 - 16:26

Animal studies and epidemiological evidence suggest an association between prenatal exposure to drinking water with elevated nitrate (NO3-N) concentrations and incidence of congenital anomalies. This study used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to derive individual-level prenatal drinking-water nitrate exposure estimates from measured nitrate concentrations from 140 temporally monitored private wells and 6 municipal water supplies. Cases of major congenital anomalies in Kings County, Nova Scotia, Canada, between 1988 and 2006 were selected from province-wide population-based perinatal surveillance databases and matched to controls from the same databases. Unconditional multivariable logistic regression was performed to test for an association between drinking-water nitrate exposure and congenital anomalies after adjusting for clinically relevant risk factors. Employing all nitrate data there was a trend toward increased risk of congenital anomalies for increased nitrate exposure levels though this was not statistically significant. After stratification of the data by conception before or after folic acid supplementation, an increased risk of congenital anomalies for nitrate exposure of 1.5–5.56 mg/L (2.44; 1.05–5.66) and a trend toward increased risk for >5.56 mg/L (2.25; 0.92–5.52) was found. Though the study is likely underpowered, these results suggest that drinking-water nitrate exposure may contribute to increased risk of congenital anomalies at levels below the current Canadian maximum allowable concentration.

http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/11/2/1803 2014/02/06 - 16:26

The use of periodical water stress and potassium fertilization may enhance rice tolerance to drought stress and improve the crop’s instantaneous water use efficiency without much yield reduction. This study was conducted to assess the effects of different periodical water stress combined with potassium fertilization regimes on growth, yield, leaf gas exchanges and biochemical changes in rice grown in pots and compare them with standard local rice grower practices. Five treatments including (1) standard local grower’s practice (control, 80CF = 80 kg K2O/ha + control flooding); (2) 120PW15 = 120 kg K2O/ha + periodical water stress for 15 days; (3) 120DS15V = 120 kg K2O/ha + drought stress for 15 days during the vegetative stage; (4) 120DS25V = 120 kg K2O/ha + drought stress for 25 days and (5) 120DS15R = 120 kg K2O/ha + drought stress for 15 days during the reproductive stage, were evaluated in this experiment. Control and 120PW15 treatments were stopped at 100 DAS, and continuously saturated conditions were applied until harvest. It was found that rice under 120PW15 treatment showed tolerance to drought stress evidenced by increased water use efficiency, peroxidase (POX), catalase (CAT) and proline levels, maximum efficiency of photosystem II (fv/fm) and lower minimal fluorescence (fo), compared to other treatments. Path coefficient analysis revealed that most of parameters contribute directly rather than indirectly to rice yield. In this experiment, there were four factors that are directly involved with rice yield: grain soluble sugar, photosynthesis, water use efficiency and total chlorophyll content. The residual factors affecting rice yield are observed to be quite low in the experiment (0.350), confirming that rice yield was mostly influenced by the parameters measured during the study.

http://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/19/2/1795 2014/02/06 - 16:26

Hantaviruses are an established cause of haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) in Europe. Following a confirmed case of HFRS in the UK, in an individual residing on a farm in North Yorkshire and the Humber, a tidal estuary on the east coast of Northern England, and the subsequent isolation of a Seoul hantavirus from rats trapped on the patient’s farm, it was considered appropriate to further investigate the public health risk of this virus in the region. Of a total 119 individuals tested, nine (7.6%) were seropositive for hantavirus antibodies. Seven of the seropositive samples showed a stronger reaction to Seoul and Hantaan compared to other clinically relevant hantaviruses. Observation of rodents during the day, in particular mice, was associated with a reduced risk of seropositivity. In addition to one region known to be at risk following an acute case, five further potential risk areas have been identified. This study supports recently published evidence that hantaviruses are likely to be of public health interest in the region.

http://www.mdpi.com/1999-4915/6/2/524 2014/02/06 - 16:26

Recently sink mobility has been exploited in numerous schemes to prolong the lifetime of wireless sensor networks (WSNs). Contrary to traditional WSNs where sensory data from sensor field is ultimately sent to a static sink, mobile sink-based approaches alleviate energy-holes issues thereby facilitating balanced energy consumption among nodes. In mobility scenarios, nodes need to keep track of the latest location of mobile sinks for data delivery. However, frequent propagation of sink topological updates undermines the energy conservation goal and therefore should be controlled. Furthermore, controlled propagation of sinks’ topological updates affects the performance of routing strategies thereby increasing data delivery latency and reducing packet delivery ratios. This paper presents a taxonomy of various data collection/dissemination schemes that exploit sink mobility. Based on how sink mobility is exploited in the sensor field, we classify existing schemes into three classes, namely path constrained, path unconstrained, and controlled sink mobility-based schemes. We also organize existing schemes based on their primary goals and provide a comparative study to aid readers in selecting the appropriate scheme in accordance with their particular intended applications and network dynamics. Finally, we conclude our discussion with the identification of some unresolved issues in pursuit of data delivery to a mobile sink.

http://www.mdpi.com/1424-8220/14/2/2510 2014/02/06 - 16:26

Laser scanning is a non-invasive method for collecting and parameterizing 3D data of well reflecting objects. These systems have been used for 3D imaging of plant growth and structure analysis. A prerequisite is that the recorded signals originate from the true plant surface. In this paper we studied the effects of species, leaf chlorophyll content and sensor settings on the suitability and accuracy of a commercial 660 nm active laser triangulation scanning device. We found that surface images of Ficus benjamina leaves were inaccurate at low chlorophyll concentrations and a long sensor exposure time. Imaging of the rough waxy leaf surface of leek (Allium porrum) was possible using very low exposure times, whereas at higher exposure times penetration and multiple refraction prevented the correct imaging of the surface. A comparison of scans with varying exposure time enabled the target-oriented analysis to identify chlorotic, necrotic and healthy leaf areas or mildew infestations. We found plant properties and sensor settings to have a strong influence on the accuracy of measurements. These interactions have to be further elucidated before laser imaging of plants is possible with the high accuracy required for e.g., the observation of plant growth or reactions to water stress.

http://www.mdpi.com/1424-8220/14/2/2489 2014/02/06 - 16:26

Nowadays the automobile industry is becoming more and more demanding as far as quality is concerned. Within the wide variety of processes in which this quality must be ensured, those regarding the squeezing of the auto bodywork are especially important due to the fact that the quality of the resulting product is tested manually by experts, leading to inaccuracies of all types. In this paper, an algorithm is proposed for the automated evaluation of the imperfections in the sheets of the bodywork after the squeezing process. The algorithm processes the profile signals from a retroreflective image and characterizes an imperfection. It is based on a convergence criterion that follows the line of the maximum gradient of the imperfection and gives its geometrical characteristics as a result: maximum gradient, length, width, and area.

http://www.mdpi.com/1424-8220/14/2/2476 2014/02/06 - 16:26

This paper shows a new displacement-to-frequency transducer based on the variation of a coil inductance when a magnetic core is partially or completely inserted inside. This transducer is based on a Colpitts oscillator due its low manufacturing price, behavior and immunity to noise. A tank circuit with a configuration in parallel was used because it can be employed at lower frequencies and it enables it to make a direct analysis. The sensor has a dynamic range equal to the length of the coil. The cores can exchange sensors (coils with its ferromagnetic core) using the same electronic measuring system. In this way, with only an electronic circuit, the core sensor determines the measurement range. The obtained resolution is higher than 1/100,000, and the sensor also allows the measurement and knowing in real time the effect of vibration, thermal expansion, referred overload movements, etc.., that can occur in the structural elements of a building.

http://www.mdpi.com/1424-8220/14/2/2468 2014/02/06 - 16:26

The childcare environment represents an appropriate avenue to support physical activity among preschoolers. The aim of this study was two-fold: (1) to measure the physical activity levels of a sample of preschoolers during childcare hours; and (2) to assess which attributes (e.g., space, equipment, policies) within centre-based childcare environments influenced physical activity. Thirty-one preschoolers from 5 childcare centres across London, Canada participated. Actical accelerometers were worn by participants for one day during childcare hours to assess activity levels using a 15 second epoch length. The Environment and Policy Assessment and Observation instrument was used to conduct a full-day evaluation of the childcare environment. On average, participants engaged in 1.54 min/h of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and 17.42 min/h of total physical activity. Sedentary opportunities, portable and fixed play equipment, and staff behaviour accounted for 49.3% of the variability in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and 14.1% of the variability in total physical activity, with sedentary opportunities, fixed play equipment, and staff behaviours displaying an inverse relationship. Results emphasize the critical role the childcare environment plays in supporting physical activity among preschoolers.

http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/11/2/1794 2014/02/06 - 16:26

The World is undergoing rapid urbanization, with 70% of the World population expected to live in urban areas by 2050. Nevertheless, nationally representative analysis of the health differences in the leading causes of avoidable mortality disaggregated by urbanization level is lacking. We undertake a study of temporal trends in mortality rates for deaths considered avoidable by the Concerted Action of the European Community on Avoidable Mortality for four different levels of urbanization in Taiwan between 1971 and 2008. We find that for virtually all causes of death, age-standardized mortality rates (ASMRs) were lower in more urbanized than less urbanized areas, either throughout the study period, or by the end of the period despite higher rates in urbanized areas initially. Only breast cancer had consistently higher AMSRs in more urbanized areas throughout the 38-year period. Further, only breast cancer, lung cancer, and ischemic heart disease witnessed an increase in ASMRs in one or more urbanization categories. More urbanized areas in Taiwan appear to enjoy better indicators of health outcomes in terms of mortality rates than less urbanized areas. Access to and the availability of rich healthcare resources in urban areas may have contributed to this positive result.

http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/11/2/1776 2014/02/06 - 16:26

Leptospirosis is an important occupational disease in New Zealand. The objectives of this study were to determine risk factors for sero-prevalence of leptospiral antibodies in abattoir workers. Sera were collected from 567 abattoir workers and tested by microscopic agglutination for Leptospira interrogans sv. Pomona and Leptospira borgpetersenii sv. Hardjobovis. Association between prevalence and risk factors were determined by species specific multivariable analysis. Eleven percent of workers had antibodies against Hardjobovis or/and Pomona. Workers from the four sheep abattoirs had an average sero-prevalence of 10%–31%, from the two deer abattoirs 17%–19% and the two beef abattoirs 5%. The strongest risk factor for sero-positivity in sheep and deer abattoirs was work position. In sheep abattoirs, prevalence was highest at stunning and hide removal, followed by removal of the bladder and kidneys. Wearing personal protective equipment such as gloves and facemasks did not appear to protect against infection. Home slaughtering, farming or hunting were not significantly associated with sero-prevalence. There is substantial risk of exposure to leptospires in sheep and deer abattoirs in New Zealand and a persisting, but lower risk, in beef abattoirs. Interventions, such as animal vaccination, appear necessary to control leptospirosis as an occupational disease in New Zealand.

http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/11/2/1756 2014/02/06 - 16:26

Objective: Childhood exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke (SHS) increases a child’s burden of respiratory conditions, but parental smoking bans may reduce such morbidity. This study evaluated household smoking bans and their relationship to respiratory illness in an outpatient otolaryngology clinic. Methods: The study was performed at the Heim Pal National Children’s Hospital, Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Department (Budapest, Hungary) from July to November, 2010. A consecutive series of children’s caregivers were approached to participate in a survey measuring household smoking bans, upper and lower respiratory tract symptoms and illnesses, and socioeconomic factors. Bivariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were performed. Results: Of the 215 caregivers recruited for the study, 208 agreed to participate (response rate of 96.7%). More than half of the children were male (54%), and 39% lived in a household with at least one member who smoked. Smoking was frequently banned inside the car (91.3%) and home (85.1%). Respondents felt it easiest to ask friends (97.1%) and family members not living in the household (98.1%) to refrain from smoking inside the home. Respondents also found it easier to ask a stranger (81.7%) or a family member (61.1%) not to smoke around the child. Logistic regression showed that respondents for children with a history of pneumonia found it less difficult to ask visitors in the home not to smoke compared to children without pneumonia (OR = 0.23, 95% CI = 0.06–0.98). Conversely, respondents for children who had had adenoidectomy found it over three times more difficult to ask strangers not to smoke near the child compared to those of children without adenoidectomy (OR = 3.20, 95% CI = 1.43–6.38). Conclusions: In a population of children visiting an outpatient ENT clinic in Budapest, Hungary, we found a high degree of exposure to SHS. The ease with which caregivers felt towards asking others not to smoke predicted specific respiratory conditions. Since the ENT clinic offers a wonderful opportunity for clinicians to counsel parents on tobacco cessation, increased tobacco education of these providers is needed.

http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/11/2/1747 2014/02/06 - 16:26

The future of global environmental sustainability is contingent upon educating the next generation of environmental stewards. Critical elements of training such an interdisciplinary workforce include mentoring and experiential learning in the areas of science, communication, and leadership. To keep pace with the ever changing and increasingly complex issues of global environmental sustainability, environmental educators must encourage and support the participation and training of a diverse body of students in the environmental sciences. The Rocky Mountain Sustainability and Science Network (RMSSN) is a partnership of over two dozen universities, federal agencies and other organizations designed to help train the next diverse generation of interdisciplinary leaders who are prepared to address issues related to global climate change, environmental sustainability, and the management of public lands and resources using the Rocky Mountains as a laboratory and classroom. Herein, we present the RMSSN as a model for engaging students in the environmental sciences with an emphasis on understanding key elements of sustainability. Our model is based on a foundation of: (1) diversity; (2) tiered mentoring in cohorts; (3) engaging lectures coupled with field experiences on public lands; (4) long term networking; and (5) environmental internships.

http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/6/2/692 2014/02/06 - 16:26

As one of the most effective traffic demand management opinions, congestion pricing can reduce private car travel demand and the associated carbon dioxide emissions. First, we summarized the status quo of transport carbon dioxide emission charges and congestion pricing, and then, we analyzed the characteristics of urban transport carbon dioxide emissions. Then, we proposed a (pricing) framework in which carbon emission costs would be considered as part of the generalized cost of travel. Based on this framework, this paper developed a bi-level mathematical model to optimize consumer surplus, using congestion and carbon emission charges as the control variables. A dissect search algorithm was used to solve the bi-level program model, and a numerical example was given to illustrate the methodology. This paper incorporates the emission pricing into the congestion pricing model, while considering two modes, and puts forward suitable proposals for the implementation of an urban traffic congestion pricing policy in China.

http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/6/2/676 2014/02/06 - 16:26

A pair of new phenolic acid stereoisomers, (R)-norsalvianolic acid L (1) and (S)-norsalvianolic acid L (2), was isolated from the Danshen Injection (lyophilized powder). The structural elucidation and stereochemistry determination were achieved by spectroscopic and chemical methods including 1D, 2D NMR (1H-1H COSY, HSQC and HMBC) and circular dichroism experiments. Their antioxidant activities were assessed by the DPPH· and ABTS·+ scavenging methods in vitro with microplate assay. The IC50 values of 1 were 6.9 and 9.7 μM respectively, which was close to the control salvianolic acid B (7.8 and 7.1 μM respectively), while the IC50 values of isomer 2 were 27.1 and 25.3 μM, respectively.

http://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/19/2/1786 2014/02/06 - 16:26