Beijing, July 13 (Xinhua/UNB) -- A joint research team of scientists from China and other countries announced Thursday that they had discovered a new species of ancient bird fossilized in amber in northern Myanmar.
According to the team, the new specimen includes a partial right hindlimb and remiges from an adult or subadult bird. Its foot, of which the third digit is much longer than the second and fourth digits, is distinct from those of all other currently recognized Mesozoic and extant birds.
The amber, about 3.5 cm long and weighs 5.5 grams, was formed nearly 100 million years ago during the early stage of the late Cretaceous Period, with a well-preserved bird's skeleton.
The research was conducted by paleontologists from the China University of Geosciences (Beijing), the Royal Saskatchewan Museum of Canada, Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.
"Considering the length of its preserved leg part of about 3 cm, we think the bird was much smaller than a sparrow. Its remarkably longer third toe may be for better adaptation to an arboreal life or for predation," said Xing Lida, a Chinese researcher.
The findings have been published in the academic journal Current Biology.
Washington, Jul 13 (AP/UNB) -- Chinese scientists developed a combined tumor-killing therapy that can be activated specifically at tumor sites in mouse models of cancer, which is more effective than previous similar therapies.
The study published on Friday in the journal Science Immunology described the new cancer immunotherapy that can prevent the immune system from becoming tolerant of tumors, which occurs in 30 percent of all cancer patients.
A team led by Wang Dangge from Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica under the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Fudan University developed a common immune checkpoint inhibitor in a nanoparticle formulation, which is highly tumor-specific.
The checkpoint inhibitor is a kind of increasingly popular anti-tumor drug. It can block proteins that keep immune T cells from killing cancer. But the checkpoint inhibitor used to target those immune system-suppressing proteins like PD-1 and PD-L1 often fails to reach deep-seated or metastatic tumors.
Wang's team combined the nanoparticles carrying PD-L1-targeting antibodies with a light-activated molecule. The molecule called photosensitizer can produce tumor-killing reactive oxygen species after encountering a protein abundant in tumors, according to the study.
In mouse models, a local near-infrared radiation that activated the photosensitizer, along with the administration of antibodies-carrying nanoparticles, promoted the infiltration of cancer cell-killing T cells into the tumor site and made the tumors more sensitive to the checkpoint blockade.
This combination also helped the nanoparticles effectively suppress tumor growth and metastasis to the lung and lymph nodes, resulting in approximately 80 percent mouse survival over 70 days, compared to complete mouse death in 45 days in the group treated with only PD-L1 antibodies, according to the study.
New Delhi, Jul 12 (AP/UNB) — India is looking to take a giant leap in its space program and solidify its place among the world's spacefaring nations with its second unmanned mission to the moon, this one aimed at landing a rover near the unexplored south pole.
The Indian Space Research Organization plans to launch a spacecraft using homegrown technology on Monday, and it is scheduled to touch down on the moon Sept. 6 or 7. The $141 million Chandrayaan-2 mission will analyze minerals, map the moon's surface and search for water.
It will "boldly go where no country has ever gone before," ISRO said in a statement.
With India poised to become the world's fifth-largest economy, the ardently nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen to show off the country's prowess in security and technology.
India successfully test-fired an anti-satellite weapon in March, which Modi said demonstrated the country's capacity as a space power alongside the United States, Russia and China. India also plans to send humans into space by 2022, becoming only the fourth nation to do so.
The country's ambitions are playing out amid a resurgent space race.
The U.S. — which is marking the 50th anniversary this month of the Apollo 11 mission that made Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin the first humans on the moon — is working to send a manned spacecraft to the lunar south pole by 2024. In April, an unmanned Israeli craft crashed into the moon in a failed attempt at the first privately funded lunar landing.
Decades of space research have allowed India to develop satellite, communications and remote sensing technologies that are helping solve everyday problems at home, from forecasting fish migration to predicting storms and floods.
India's first lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1, whose name is Sanskrit for "moon craft," orbited the moon in 2008 and helped confirm the presence of water. In 2013-14, India put a satellite into orbit around Mars in the nation's first interplanetary mission.
Some have questioned the expense in a country of 1.3 billion people with widespread poverty and one of the world's highest child mortality rates. But author and economic commentator Gurcharan Das said that the cost of the second moonshot is small compared with India's overall budget and that the project could have a multiplier effect on the economy.
He called on India to get the country's private sector more involved in research and development, which he said could yield "huge benefits" beyond the realm of space travel.
The spacecraft will have a lunar orbiter, lander and a rover. The lander will carry a camera, a seismometer, a thermal instrument and a NASA-supplied laser retroreflector that will help calculate the distance between the Earth and the moon.
The lunar south pole is especially interesting because a much larger portion of it is in shadow than the north pole, presenting a greater possibility of water. Water is an essential ingredient for life, and finding it is part of science's broader goal of determining whether there is life elsewhere in our solar system.
This will be the first rover to look for water at the south pole.
"These days, it has become the place to go," said space expert N. Rathnasree.
Dhaka, Jul 12 (AP/UNB) - The U.S. government is growing the largest crop of research marijuana in five years, responding to interest in varieties with high levels of THC and CBD.
The government is the only source of pot for nearly all research in the U.S., while it still considers it illegal and dangerous.
Scientists have asked for weed that more closely matches what's sold in states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana, the National Institute on Drug Abuse said in an email Thursday to The Associated Press.
The federal agency said it plans to grow 2,000 kilograms (4,409 pounds) this year at the University of Mississippi, which holds the sole federal contract for producing marijuana. That's enough for 5 million joints, although the government provides the marijuana in different forms.
The crop will be divided between high THC and high CBD varieties with "recent interest (in CBD) as a potential medicine for a number of medical conditions," NIDA said. The compound THC causes pot's mind-altering effect; CBD doesn't get people high.
Last year, a CBD-based drug was approved by federal regulators for two rare seizure disorders and researchers are pursuing research on it for other conditions. Others are focused on THC.
"We want to study what our patients are using," said University of Colorado Assistant Professor Emily Lindley, who is investigating marijuana with high THC as an alternative to opioids for chronic back pain.
Lindley and other researchers want others besides the University of Mississippi to get federal authorization to grow research pot. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration created an application process for growers, but has not acted on more than two dozen applications. In June, Scottsdale Research Institute in Arizona asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to order the DEA to process the applications.
"We are still working through the process and those applications remain under review," said DEA spokeswoman Katherine Pfaff in an email Thursday. She declined to comment on the litigation.
In response to questions from the AP, NIDA said there had been no major increase in demand for cannabis by researchers in recent years. Last year, 20 researchers got shipments of government marijuana, much of it from frozen cannabis grown in 2014. Since 2010, the number of researchers receiving government marijuana has ranged from eight to 21.
Researchers should be able to obtain material from the new crop in the fall after harvest and analyses are completed, NIDA said.
Cape Canaveral, Jul 12 (AP/UNB) — A former astronaut landed back at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Thursday after helping to shatter a pair of records for a round-the-world airplane flight over the North and South poles.
Terry Virts was part of the team whose 46-hour, 39-minute and 38-second polar circumnavigation flight ended where it began. They set the duration and speed records in a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER aircraft.
Their average speed was 535 mph (861 kph).
Dubbed "One More Orbit," the flight paid homage to next week's 50th anniversary of humanity's first moon landing.
Virts' former space station crewmate, Russian Gennady Padalka, was on the first two legs of the flight. Padalka, the world's space champ with 879 days in orbit, left during a fueling stop. Virts said in a tweet that the three stops were "NASCAR pit-stop intense." Each stop lasted less than an hour.
The plane departed from the former space shuttle landing strip Tuesday at 9:32 a.m. — the same liftoff time as Apollo 11's Saturn V rocket on July 16, 1969. It crossed over the North Pole, stopped in Kazakhstan and then Mauritius, crossed above the South Pole, stopped in Chile, and then returned to Florida.
The speed record, as recognized by the World Air Sports Federation, was last set in 2008. That was 511 mph (823 kph). The "One More Orbit" crew also set a Guinness World Record for flight duration, last set in 1977 in San Francisco at 54 hours. Representatives for both organizations were present for Thursday's landing.