Key Protein That Causes Blood to Clot Made in the Lungs as well as the Liver Say Imperial College of London Scientists

A key protein that causes the blood to clot is produced by blood vessels in the lungs and not just the liver, according to new research published in the journal PLoS One, led by scientists at Imperial College London.
The findings may ultimately help scientists to develop better treatments for conditions where the blood’s ability to clot is impaired, including deep vein thrombosis, where dangerous blood clots form inside the body, and haemophilia A, where the blood cannot clot sufficiently well.
It has long been known that an agent called factor VIII plays a key role in enabling the blood to clot. Too much factor VIII puts people at risk of excessive clots. Low levels of factor VIII cause bleeding in people with haemophilia A and factor VIII replacement is used to treat this.
Prior to recent research it had been believed that most factor VIII was produced by the liver. Therapeutic options for patients with haemophilia have included replacing liver cells, for example through transplantation.

Study suggests the blood vessels in the lungs could be an important site for regulating the formation of clots
Dr Claire Shovlin , the lead author of the study from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, said: “Our study suggests that the blood vessels in the lung are playing a crucial role in altering how blood clots form in the body. There are a huge number of these blood vessels – they cover an area equivalent in size to a squash court, effectively 20 times the surface area of all other blood vessels combined.
“This means it’s really important for us to understand exactly how the behaviour of the lung blood vessels might be affecting diseases where blood clotting is a factor. Further research on how the lungs modify the clotting potential of the blood flowing through them could open up new avenues for treatments,” added Dr Shovlin.
In 2006, researchers from the University of Leuven in Belgium published a study in the journal Blood looking at donated lung tissue. The researchers passed fluid through the tissue and found that in three of the four lung samples studied, the levels of factor VIII increased in the fluid after passing through the lungs. They also provided evidence that some lung blood vessels could produce factor VIII in cell culture.
The researchers behind today’s study have confirmed that the blood vessels in the lungs should be an important site for regulating the formation of clots, both in the lungs themselves and also, potentially, in the rest of the body. They used different microscopic and biochemical techniques to look at samples of lung tissue and blood samples in minute detail.
Tissue and blood samples for the work leading up to this study were donated by patients from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, with tissue processed through the Hammersmith Hospital Tissue Bank.
The team found that factor VIII could be seen in the lung tissue and was present on the surface of blood vessel cells in the lungs. They also found that factor VIII localises in the lungs with a protein called von Willebrand factor, which protects factor VIII from degradation. The work also showed that how the factor VIII gene may be decoded is much more complicated than previously thought. This could potentially alter how scientists approach the treatment of the many conditions where blood clotting is a factor.
The researchers hope that ultimately new drugs can be developed that target production of factor VIII in the lungs, to improve the body’s ability to ensure that the blood clots properly. By targeting the lungs, the researchers think it may be possible to make more effective drugs that produce fewer side effects than current treatments.

Ability to Harness Electricity from Tiny Vibrations Could Power a New Generation of Electronic Devices.

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, which traverses hundreds of miles of some of the most inhospitable terrain on Earth, must be monitored almost constantly for potential problems like corrosion or cracking. Humans do some of this work — surveying the pipeline from the air and inspecting it more closely in the areas that can be easily accessed by roads — but the bulk of it is done by mechanical “pigs,” sensor-laden robots that travel inside the pipeline looking for flaws.

A simpler process might involve outfitting remote stretches of the pipeline with sensors that would automatically radio a warning of impending problems. But the need to periodically change the batteries on such sensors lessens the appeal of that option. For electronic devices in remote or inaccessible situations like this, including environmental or mechanical monitoring sensors as well as some kinds of biomedical monitors, it can be inconvenient or even impossible to replace batteries.

But what if batteries weren’t necessary?

Systems that could provide power for such sensors just by harvesting the normal vibrations of the pipeline (or bridges or industrial machinery and so on), eliminating or reducing the need for a battery, are being developed by Anantha Chandrakasan, MIT’s Joseph F. and Nancy P. Keithley professor of electrical engineering and director of the MIT Microsystems Technology Laboratories, and his former student Yogesh Ramadass SM ’06, PhD ’09.

They have been working for years on the development of ways to harness small amounts of power from ambient vibrations. A paper describing their latest work on a new control circuit for such systems, which can quadruple the amount of power they produce, appeared last month in the IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits.

Big steps toward tiny power

There are a number of different approaches to harnessing vibrational energy, some using magnetic or electric fields. But the new control circuit Ramadass and Chandrakasan developed is designed to work with piezoelectric systems — ones that use voltage generated by stress in a crystalline material, such as lead-zirconate-titanate.

It has been known for well over a century that some materials, including some crystals and ceramics, will produce an electrical current when subjected to stress by squeezing or bending. To harness the energy of motion or vibration, such a material is coupled to a spring, pendulum or other mechanism that converts the motion into pressure.

Chandrakasan and Ramadass envision applications in such things as implantable medical diagnostic or treatment devices that could be powered indefinitely by the person’s own natural movements, or distributed sensors to monitor structural elements on bridges or the pressure in truck tires and transmit the data to a central receiver, powered by the vibrations of ordinary traffic.

Existing devices for harvesting energy from vibrations tend to be tuned to very specific frequencies, Chandrakasan says, but “in many practical applications, we need something more general. That’s still a technical question to be addressed.”

For now, such systems can’t deliver enough power to run consumer devices such as cell phones, Ramadass explains. “The power levels for a cell phone are way up from what we can generate now” from a person’s natural movements, he says, although some simpler devices, such as an mp3 music player, might be within the available range. He is currently working with semiconductor leader Texas Instruments to develop commercial applications of ultra-low power systems and solutions.

David Lamb, chief operating officer of Camgian Microsystems, a company that produces a variety of low-power, lightweight semiconductor chips, says enabling new, low-power distributed sensor and security systems will depend on improving the efficiency of energy-harvesting techniques, including the power-producing system as well as control and storage systems. Because low-power systems are still a relatively new area of research, he says, “typical power management approaches are not well suited to energy harvesters, and there are still a lot of unsolved challenges,” But devices such as the company’s remote surveillance system are designed to operate on very low power, he says, and “if efficient interface and control circuits can be developed, this microsystem can be continuously powered by energy harvesting.”

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has provided support for this research, which also holds promise for monitoring military equipment in remote locations.

The team has also been developing systems to derive small amounts of power from temperature differences (as described in part one of this series), and Chandrakasan says that in the future, some applications might make use of systems that combine both the heat- and vibration-harvesting devices to produce more power, or to work in situations where these energy sources are variable and one or the other might not always be available.

Some parts of such a system, such as the electronic control circuits and transmitters for relaying the collected data, could be connected to both the heat and vibration generating systems (as well as additional sources of power, such as a solar cell), Ramadass says. “You could have one set of electronics that interfaces” with multiple inputs, he says.

For the future, the researchers are working on ways to improve the integration of the various components, and on making the systems as versatile as possible. “We want to make them adaptable over a broad range” of operating conditions, Chandrakasan says. In addition, they are working on improving the devices’ overall efficiency. “We want to get to the maximum theoretically possible achievable energy,” Ramadass says.

Nanostructured Flake Substrates Have Very High Yields of Carbon Nanotubes per Unit Weight of Substrate

Shown in the figure below is a SEM image of multi-wall carbon nanotubes produced on nanostructured flake substrates by Rice University  scientists. The nanostructured flake substrates may be advantageously used for synthesizing carbon nanotubes by making the flake substrates airborne. This technical feature is accomplished in a specially-designed chemical vapor deposition (CVD) reactor for synthesis of carbon nanotubes

Rice University (Houston, TX)  scientists have developed a  process to grow carbon nanotubes on nanostructured flake substrates . The nanostructured flake substrates include a catalyst support layer and at least one catalyst layer. Carbon nanotubes grown on the nanostructured flake substrates can have very high aspect ratios.
Further, the carbon nanotubes can be aligned on the nanostructured flake substrates. Through routine optimization, the nanostructured flake substrates may be used to produce single-wall, double-wall, or multi-wall carbon nanotubes of various lengths and diameters. The nanostructured flake substrates produce very high yields of carbon nanotubes per unit weight of substrate.
The nanostructured flake substrates produce very high yields of carbon nanotubes per unit weight of substrate. Methods for making the nanostructured flake substrates and for using the nanostructured flake substrates in carbon nanotube synthesis are disclosed  by Rice University nanotechnologists Howard K Schmidt, Robert H. Hauge, Cary L. Pint Sean T. Pheasant and Kent E. Coulter in U.S. Patent Application 20100028613
For a 90 minute growth time at 25 torr, a yield of carbon nanotubes per unit mass of nanostructured flake substrate was greater than about 400%. For example, starting with only 3.4 mg of the nanostructured flake substrate, 18.6 mg of carbon nanotubes plus nanostructured flake material were collected.
A similar yield was obtained at 12 torr over 300 minutes of growth. As the catalyst flakes have viable lifetimes of at least six hours, an estimated yield of carbon nanotubes per unit mass of catalyst could be greater than 1800% upon optimization of the growth conditions. Additionally, one must also consider whether yield or nanotube quality is the primary consideration in optimizing the growth conditions.
The utility of the nanostructured flake substrates are clearly evident when one considers that typical fixed substrates only provide a yield of about 30% per unit mass of catalyst. Further, these yields for fixed substrates produce carbon nanotube bundles. When one considers aligned carbon nanotube arrays, the yields on fixed substrates plummets to about 1%.
The nanostructured flake substrates are advantageous in that there is no constraint on the growth of the carbon nanotubes as is dictated by a fixed substrate. Rather, the carbon nanotubes are free to grow in such a way as to minimize the stresses associated with carbon nanotube growth from the nanostructured flake substrate surface.

U.S. Patent Application 20100028613, FIG. 1 shows a nanostructured flake substrates produced by a roll-to-roll evaporator system in the presence of an electron beam. 
FIG. 4 shows  representative SEM images of the nanostructured flake substrates



EU Researchers Alarmed by Harmful Benzene & VOC Levels in Kindergartens & Schools, New Study Finds Indoor Air Worse that Outdoors

New European research finds that the levels of several harmful air pollutants are greater indoors than outdoors, and even greater when measured on the person themselves. The measured levels of benzene are especially concerning and often indicate higher exposure than what is normally associated with the annual EU limit value set for ambient air quality.
The European Environment and Health Strategy1 recognises the importance of indoor air pollution. As part of several EU-funded research projects, the European Indoor Air Monitoring and Exposure Assessment Project (AIRMEX), has identified the main culprits and mapped their geographical distribution.
The AIRMEX study monitored indoor, outdoor and individual exposure to selected chemical compounds (aromatics, carbonyls, terpenes and other Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)) across Europe. A total of 991 samples were taken from public buildings, schools/kindergartens, individual volunteers and the homes of those volunteers.
Generally, the total VOC concentrations inside public buildings were higher than outdoor concentrations. The levels of VOCs showed a seasonal variation and were higher in colder months. The same trend was seen in kindergartens and schools and in most cases average levels of VOCs were twice as high indoors as outdoors. The exposure of individual volunteers was higher than average exposure to indoor concentrations and associated with smoking.
Benzene was of particular interest and concern as it is known to have cancercausing effects. For this pollutant, 18 per cent of outdoor concentrations, 23 per cent of indoor concentrations and 30 per cent of concentrations measured on people exceeded the ambient air limit (5 microgrammes per cubic metreannual mean) established in the European Union (Directive 2000/69/EC)2.
In all locations the concentrations for aldehydes were up to 7-8 times higher inside buildings than outside. This is particularly relevant for formaldehyde which has recently been declared a human carcinogen. Indoor levels of aldehydes increased in warmer months, particularly formaldehyde.
To identify the source of indoor pollution the study examined the ratio of indoor to outdoor pollution of VOCs. This indicated that although benzene had important indoor sources, such as cigarette smoke, it mainly originated from sources outdoors. However, other VOCs and carbonyls had additional sources within homes, such as flooring and furniture.
The researchers examined the impact of two mixtures of chemicals on human lung cells. The mixtures comprised different fractions of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes. Results indicated that the presence of toluene in air containing VOCs enhances immune system responses, such as inflammation. This suggests that chemical compounds interact and effects may change
depending on the other chemicals present.
Source: Kotzias, D., Geiss, O., Tirendi, S. et al.(2009). Exposure to multiple air contaminants in public buildings, schools and kindergartens – the European indoor air monitoring and exposure assessment (AIRMEX) study. Fresenius Environmental Bulletin. 18(5a): 670-681.
Contact: dimitrios.kotzias@jrc.it
1. See http://ec.europa.eu/environment/health/action_plan.htm
2. Directive 2000/69/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 November 2000
relating to limit values for benzene and carbon monoxide in ambient air. See: http://eur-lex.
europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32000L0069:EN:HTML

PEEK Membrane for Peak Performance: Shin-Etsu Chemical Reveals Improved Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cell Membrane

Shin-Etsu Chemical Co., Ltd. (Chiyoda-ku, JP) has produced an improved electrolyte membrane for fuel cells by irradiating a resin with UV light and graft polymerizing a reactive monomer to the resin.
The fuel cell membrane is characterized by a radically polymerizable monomer that is graft-polymerized to a resin without using a photopolymerization initiator.  This is achieved by bringing the radically polymerizable monomer into contact with the resin after irradiating the resin with ultraviolet light. The electrolyte membrane for fuel cells obtained by ultraviolet irradiation graft polymerization has both excellent oxidation resistance and excellent mechanical characteristics. By using such an electrolyte membrane, there can be obtained a fuel cell exhibiting extremely high performance, says inventor Mitsuhito Takahashi in U.S. Patent Application 20100024951.
Examples of the resin used include fluorocarbon resins such as tetrafluoroethylene-hexafluoropropylene copolymer resins (FEP), tetrafluoroethylene-perfluoroalkyl vinyl ether copolymer resins (PFA), ethylene-tetrafluoro-ethylene copolymer resins (ETFE), and vinylidene fluoride resins (PVDF), and aromatic hydrocarbon resins such as polyether ether ketone (PEEK), which may be used alone or in admixture of two or more. The resins may be configured into sheet, film or plate shape.
 The fuel cell uses platinum alloy nano-particle catalysts which include alloys of platinum with at least one metal selected from among ruthenium, palladium, rhodium, iridium, osmium, molybdenum, tin, cobalt, nickel, iron, chromium and the like. The platinum alloy should preferably contain at least 5% by weight, and more preferably at least 10% by weight of platinum. 

The nano-particle catalyst has a catalyst loading of 0.05 to 1 mg/ cm2, preferably 0.3 to 0.5 mg/cm2 in each electrode catalyst layer. Too small a catalyst loading may fail to exert the catalytic effect whereas a catalyst loading in excess of 1 mg/ cm2 may provide a thicker catalyst layer to detract from the cell output.
The proton-conductive polymer electrolytes with a sulfonic group which are advantageously used herein include perfluoro electrolytes as typified by Nafion® (duPont), hydrocarbon electrolytes as typified by styrene sulfonic acid-butadiene copolymers, and inorganic/organic hybrid electrolytes as typified by sulfonic acid-containing alkoxysilane and terminally silylated oligomers.  Further, carbon nano-particles having no catalyst supported thereon may be compounded for the purpose of improving electron conductivity. 
The platinum group metal nano-particle catalysts and platinum alloy nano-particle catalysts used herein have a particle size (average particle diameter) of up to 4 nm, preferably 1 to 4 nm, and more preferably 2 to 3.5 nm. A catalyst having a particle size in excess of 4 nm has a smaller specific surface area, giving rise to a problem of lower catalytic activity.