Posts Categorized: Research News

Some women’s retirement plan: rely on Prince Charming

Some women’s retirement plan: rely on Prince Charming

Women workers often rely on future spouses to organize their retirement finances, rather than making independent decisions now.  Men and women working for private Japanese companies make decisions about their retirement savings plans differently based on their gender. Satoshi P. Watanabe, Ph.D., of Hiroshima University completed new research on an insurance company’s survey results from 2002.  Although the survey is somewhat dated, the data is still relevant because employee demographics have not changed significantly in the intervening 14 years.  This is the first study to examine Japanese workers’ gender-based decision making about retirement investments. Even when women and men had the same comprehension of their retirement savings plan options, women… Read more

How females store sperm: fertility study in chickens examines fatty acids

How females store sperm: fertility study in chickens examines fatty acids

The science of breeding chickens has revealed part of the mystery of how certain female animals are able to store sperm long-term.  Droplets of fat transferred from female cells to sperm cells may contribute to keeping sperm alive. Females of some types of insects, reptiles, and birds can store sperm from multiple males within specialized sperm storage areas of their reproductive tracts.  Different animals can store sperm for days or years.  Stored sperm can fertilize multiple eggs over time, meaning females do not need to mate again to fertilize additional eggs. “Farmers may be able to more successfully breed their flocks if we could understand how the sperm stays viable… Read more

Power up when the temperature is down

Power up when the temperature is down

Transporting power sources in the coldest places may be easier with a new re-chargeable, non-metallic battery from Japan. This “eco battery” could provide portable sources of power in environments like refrigerated factories or extreme winter environments. Chemists from Hiroshima University developed a new synthesis method for organic radical batteries that are re-chargeable and continue to function at below-freezing temperatures.  The specific model prototyped by the Hiroshima University team has greater voltage than previously reported styles from other research groups around the world.  The method used to create this battery is an improvement on a report from the same Hiroshima University laboratory earlier in 2016. Most electrical devices use a lithium-ion… Read more

Bubble volcano

Bubble volcano

Shaking, popping by earthquakes may cause eruptions A new study on the connection between earthquakes and volcanoes took its inspiration from old engineering basics.  Future applications of these results may enable better predictions of the likelihood of a volcanic eruption for communities affected by an earthquake. If you swirl wine in a glass too strongly, the wine crashes against the sides and spills over the top.  The same swirling and crashing, technically termed “sloshing,” happens when transporting liquids on trucks or ships.  Large liquid containers must be specially designed to avoid damage as the vehicle shakes and the liquid sloshes.  Strong earthquakes can even damage large petroleum tanks. When earthquakes… Read more

Geomorphology Research at the Mashiki Earthquake

Geomorphology Research at the Mashiki Earthquake

Mashiki is a small town in southwestern Japan, Kumamoto Prefecture, which was near the epicenter of two major earthquakes on Thursday, April 14, 2016 and on Saturday, April 16, 2016. Hiroshima University researchers Hideaki Goto, PhD, and Yasuhiro Kumahara, PhD, specialize in geomorphology – studying the shape of Earth’s surface.  They arrived in Kumamoto on Friday to collect data after Thursday evening’s earthquake.  They were shaken awake at about 1:30am on Saturday by the second, larger earthquake in Mashiki.  These photos from Saturday afternoon in Mashiki show some of the damage that local residents experienced.   The damage in Mashiki after Saturday’s earthquake was unexpected because the town is about… Read more

Untwist scoliosis by clipping wings of an overactive ladybird

Untwist scoliosis by clipping wings of an overactive ladybird

People with scoliosis, a twisting of the spine that can occur as a birth defect or more commonly starts during the teen years, are now closer to a genetic explanation for their condition. An overactive gene, called ladybird homeobox 1 (LBX1), is the start of a genetic chain reaction that causes the spine to grow abnormally. The report from collaborations at Hiroshima University, Kyoto University, RIKEN, and Kanazawa University is the first to demonstrate the functional association of scoliosis with LBX1. “A genetic test called the ScoliScore AIS Prognostic Test already exists for adolescents recently diagnosed with scoliosis to predict if the curve of the spine will get worse, which… Read more

The ups and downs of transportation within cells

The ups and downs of transportation within cells

New role for Rab6 How do cells avoid growing topsy-turvy?  Growing so your top, front, bottom and back all wind up on the correct side requires a good sense of direction at the cellular level.  A Hiroshima University research group has identified a familiar gene with an unexpected role in directing proteins around the cell. “I really want to figure out how proteins know where to go inside the cell.  The 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to researchers who laid the groundwork for understanding transportation within cells, but the process of how different proteins are sorted to go to different locations is still unknown,” said Akiko… Read more

Genetic cause of neurological disease identified

Genetic cause of neurological disease identified

Using the genetic information of two different families with three generations of disease, researchers have identified a new mutation responsible for a degenerative and ultimately fatal movement disorder. Through induced pluripotent stem cell techniques, researchers also grew neurons from one patient in the laboratory to be used in future experiments. Spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA) is a genetic disease that causes wasting away of the cerebellum, the portion of the brain responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement, like walking, speaking, and even the direction of our eyes. Currently, SCA has no cure or treatment. The mutations responsible for about 30 percent of cases are still unidentified. Two different families with SCA sought… Read more

The tortoise and the hare of spinal neural circuits

The tortoise and the hare of spinal neural circuits

After an injury, practicing movements at different speeds improves certain nerve functions Changes in one circuit of nerves, but not another, in the spinal cord depend on how quickly muscles must move to complete a task, according to results from the Human Motor Control Laboratory of Professor Kozo Funase, PhD, at Hiroshima University.  The results could influence physical therapy routines for patients struggling to control their bodies after a stroke or spine injury. Multiple different types of circuits of nerves control the communication between motor and sensory nerves in the spine.  One, called presynaptic inhibition, works like a gate to control incoming sensory information and prevents muscle spasms.  Another, called… Read more

New targets for reducing nerve pain identified

New targets for reducing nerve pain identified

A specific molecule involved in maintaining pain after a nerve injury has been identified and blocked in mice by Hiroshima University researchers.  These results reveal a promising therapeutic strategy for treating neuropathic pain. Mice with an injury to their sciatic nerve showed less pain after multiple injections of a drug that blocks the activity of a molecule called high-mobility group box-1 (HMGB1).  Researchers also discovered that a single dose of a drug to block the activity of a different molecule, called matrix metalloprotease-9 (MMP-9), could also alleviate pain from the injury. The chemical pathways that these drugs use to inhibit HMGB1 or MMP-9 are different from common pain relievers, like… Read more