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The factors that improve job resiliency in North American cities have been identified

Credit: UC3M The researchers in this study reached this conclusion by drawing on network modelling research and mapped the job

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The researchers in this study reached this conclusion by drawing on network modelling research and mapped the job landscapes in cities across the United States during economic crises.

Knowing and understanding which factors contribute to the health of job markets is interesting as it can help promote faster recovery after a crisis, such as a major economic recession or the current COVID pandemic. Traditional studies perceive the worker as someone linked to a specific job in a sector. However, in the real-world professionals often end up working in other sectors that require similar skills. In this sense, researchers consider job markets as being something similar to ecosystems, where organisms are linked in a complex network of interactions.

In this context, an effective job market depends on many aspects, such as diversity and the number of job offers or training opportunities that workers have in order to acquire new skills, for example. In this scientific study, researchers have found that cities where all of these factors are very similar respond differently in regard to recovering from an economic crisis. Why? “We have discovered that the difference comes, in part, from the jobs ‘map’, a network that tells us how jobs within a city are related, according to the similarity of the skills required to perform those jobs,” explains Esteban Moro, an associate professor at the UC3M’s Department of Mathematics and co-author of the study, who is currently a visiting professor at the MIT Media Lab.

“When that map is extremely limited, in other words, when there is very little chance of finding another similar job (what we call “job connectivity”), cities are less prepared for a job crisis. In contrast, when that map offers lots of possibilities of moving from one job to another similar one, the city is better prepared. It also has an effect on workers’ wages: workers in cities that have a more diverse network earn more than those in the same occupation in cities where this network is more limited,” adds Esteban Moro.

Ecology, complex networks and job connectivity

In ecology and other domains where complex networks are present, resilience has been closely linked to the “connectivity” of the networks. In nature, for example, ecosystems with lots of connections have proven to be more resistant to certain shocks (such as changes in acidity or temperature) than those with fewer connections. Inspired by this idea and drawing on previous network modelling research, the authors of the study modelled the relationships between jobs in several cities across the United States. Just as connectivity in nature fosters resilience, they predicted that cities with jobs connected by overlapping skills and geography would fare better in the face of economic shock than those without such networks.

In order to validate this, the researchers examined data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for all metropolitan areas in the US from the beginning to the end of the Great Recession (2008-2014). Based on this data, they created maps of the job landscape in each area, including the number of specific jobs, their geographical distribution, and the extent to which the skills they required overlapped with other jobs in the area. The size of a given city, as well as its employment diversity, played a role in resilience, with bigger, more diverse cities obtaining better results than smaller and less-diverse ones. However, by controlling size and diversity and taking job connectivity into account, predictions of peak unemployment rates during the recession improved significantly. In other words, cities where job connectivity was higher before the crash were significantly more resilient and recovered faster than those with less-connected markets.

Even in the absence of temporary crises like the Great Recession or the COVID pandemic, phenomena, such as automation, might radically change the job landscape in many areas in the coming years. How can cities prepare for this disruption? The researchers in this study extended their model to predict how job markets would behave when facing job loss due to automation. They found that while cities of similar sizes would be affected similarly in the early stages of automation shocks, those with well-connected job networks would provide better opportunities for displaced workers to find other jobs. This prevents widespread unemployment and, in some cases, even leads to more jobs being created as a result of the initial automation shock.

The findings of this study suggest that policymakers should consider job connectivity when planning for the future of employment in their regions, especially where automation is expected to replace a large number of jobs. Furthermore, increased connectivity does not just result in lower unemployment, it also contributes to a rise in overall wages. These results provide a new perspective on discussions about the future of employment and may help guide and complement current decisions about where to invest in job creation and training programmes, say researchers.

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https://www.uc3m.es/ss/Satellite/UC3MInstitucional/en/Detalle/Comunicacion_C/1371308984892/1371215537949/Identifican_los_factores_que_mejoran_la_resiliencia_laboral_en_las_ciudades_norteamericanas

In ecology and other domains where complex networks are present, resilience has been closely linked to the “connectivity” of the networks. In nature, for example, ecosystems with lots of connections have proven to be more resistant to certain shocks (such as changes in acidity or temperature) than those with fewer connections. Inspired by this idea and drawing on previous network modelling research, the authors of the study modelled the relationships between jobs in several cities across the United States. Just as connectivity in nature fosters resilience, they predicted that cities with jobs connected by overlapping skills and geography would fare better in the face of economic shock than those without such networks.

Source: https://bioengineer.org/the-factors-that-improve-job-resiliency-in-north-american-cities-have-been-identified/

Bioengineer

Poison frog tadpoles can survive (almost) anywhere

From orange juice to sea water, and between the ground and 4-story buildingCredit: Andrius Pašukonis/Stanford University A group of researchers

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A group of researchers from the University of Jyvaskyla and Stanford University were part of an expedition to French Guiana to study tropical frogs in the Amazon. Various amphibian species of this region use ephemeral pools of water as their nurseries, and display unique preferences for specific physical and chemical characteristics. Despite species-specific preferences, researchers were surprised to find tadpoles of the dyeing poison frog surviving in an incredible range of both chemical (pH 3-8) and vertical (0-20 m in height) deposition sites. This research was published in the journal Ecology and Evolution in June 2021.

Neotropical frogs are special because, unlike species in temperate regions, many tropical frogs lay their eggs on the ground. This becomes an issue once tadpoles (who breathe using gills, like fish) hatch onto the forest floor, but poison frogs have developed innovative solutions to get their tadpoles to suitable aquatic habitats: piggy-back rides. In many of these terrestrial-breeding species, fathers will transport recently hatched tadpoles from the ground to pools of water formed by vegetation (like fallen trees or bromeliads).

PhD researcher Chloe Fouilloux and team leaders Dr. Bibiana Rojas from University of Jyvaskyla, Finland and Dr. Andrius Pasukonis from Stanford University wanted to know if different species (Dendrobates tinctorius, Allobates femoralis, and Osteocephalus oophagus) considered a combination of biological, physical, or chemical characteristics of pools when choosing nurseries for their young.

To find that out, this group of eight researchers sampled more than 100 pools over two years, which involved searching for suitable deposition sites that ranged from the ground to over 20 meter in vertical height (reached by climbing trees).

Of the three species, range and tolerance of D. tinctorius (dyeing poison frog) tadpoles was beyond what any of the researchers imagined physiologically possible: healthy tadpoles were found in a range of pools with a pH of around 3 to a pH of 8, which represents a 100,000x change of hydrogen ion concentration; in other words, these tadpoles were successfully developing in pools of what is chemically more acidic than orange juice to pools that have similar ionic concentrations to sea water!

The deposition choices of dyeing poison frogs confused researchers in other ways, too: tadpoles of this species are aggressive cannibals, which is why they are usually found to occur in low densities (1-2 tadpoles) per pool.

“However, in this study, we found several instances of more than 10 tadpoles of this species coexisting in the same nursery. The reason why fathers would deposit so many cannibals within the same pool, or if cannibalism occurs within these special pools, has yet to be tested”, says PhD researcher Chloe Fouilloux from University of Jyväskylä.

Healthier males transporting their tadpoles to more suitable conditions?

From a parental perspective, dyeing poison frog fathers were found to carry their tadpoles more than 20 meters above the forest floor: for a frog that is about 4 centimeter long, 20 meters is 500 times their body length. In human terms, this physical feat would be equivalent to having a 1.65 meter person climbing up a giant (non-existent, obviously) tree of about 825 meters!

But why do fathers sometimes carry their tadpoles one meter away from where they hatched, and other times transport them to the tops of trees?

When looking at the chemical and biological trends, it appears that more biologically “comfortable” nurseries are found higher in trees. One possible explanation for this finding is that healthier males are able to invest more energy in transporting their tadpoles to more suitable conditions, but this is something that would need to be investigated in the future. Ultimately, there remains a lot to be learnt about the physiology and parental care of these animals; the degree of chemical flexibility found in these tadpoles is extremely unusual, and the secret underlying their resilience remains unknown.

“This work helps highlighting the amazing diversity observed between and among species in the wild: parents from different species prioritise unique characteristics when choosing pools to raise their offspring, which shapes both how species interact with each other and how they specialize in occupying different parts of the environment”, states Dr. Bibiana Rojas from University of Jyväskylä.

This variation opens the door to future research that explores how species influence each other and how pool choice by parents affects tadpole development and survival.

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The research was published in journal Ecology and Evolution in June 15, 2021: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ece3.7741

For further information:

Chloe Fouilloux, University of Jyvaskyla, [email protected], tel. +358 41 725 7825

Bibiana Rojas, University of Jyvaskyla, [email protected], tel. +358 40 805 4622

Andrius Pasukonis, Stanford University, [email protected]

Communications Specialist Tanja Heikkinen, University of Jyvaskyla, [email protected], +358 50 472 1162

https://www.jyu.fi/en

https://www.jyu.fi/science/en

Twitter: @uniofjyvaskyla Facebook: @JyvaskylaUniversity

https://www.jyu.fi/en/current/archive/2021/06/from-orange-juice-to-sea-water-and-between-the-ground-and-4-story-building-poison-frog-tadpoles-can-survive-almost-anywhere

Source: https://bioengineer.org/poison-frog-tadpoles-can-survive-almost-anywhere/

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Scientists demonstrate promising new approach for treating cystic fibrosis

Scientists led by UNC School of Medicine researchers Silvia Kreda, Ph.D., and Rudolph Juliano, Ph.D., created an improved oligonucleotide therapy

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Scientists led by UNC School of Medicine researchers Silvia Kreda, Ph.D., and Rudolph Juliano, Ph.D., created an improved oligonucleotide therapy strategy with the potential for treating other pulmonary diseases, such as COPD and asthma

CHAPEL HILL, NC – UNC School of Medicine scientists led a collaboration of researchers to demonstrate a potentially powerful new strategy for treating cystic fibrosis (CF) and potentially a wide range of other diseases. It involves small, nucleic acid molecules called oligonucleotides that can correct some of the gene defects that underlie CF but are not addressed by existing modulator therapies. The researchers used a new delivery method that overcomes traditional obstacles of getting oligonucleotides into lung cells.

As the scientists reported in the journal Nucleic Acids Research, they demonstrated the striking effectiveness of their approach in cells derived from a CF patient and in mice.

“With our oligonucleotide delivery platform, we were able to restore the activity of the protein that does not work normally in CF, and we saw a prolonged effect with just one modest dose, so we’re really excited about the potential of this strategy,” said study senior author Silvia Kreda, PhD, an associate professor in the UNC Department of Medicine and the UNC Department Biochemistry & Biophysics, and a member of the Marsico Lung Institute at the UNC School of Medicine.

Kreda and her lab collaborated on the study with a team headed by Rudolph Juliano, PhD, Boshamer Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the UNC Department of Pharmacology, and co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of the biotech startup Initos Pharmaceuticals.

About 30,000 people in the United States have CF, an inherited disorder in which gene mutations cause the functional absence of an important protein called CFTR. Absent CFTR, the mucus lining the lungs and upper airways becomes dehydrated and highly susceptible to bacterial infections, which occur frequently and lead to progressive lung damage.

Treatments for CF now include CFTR modulator drugs, which effectively restore partial CFTR function in many cases. However, CFTR modulators cannot help roughly ten percent of CF patients, often because the underlying gene defect is of the type known as a splicing defect.

CF and splicing defects

Splicing is a process that occurs when genes are copied out – or transcribed – into temporary strands of RNA. A complex of enzymes and other molecules then chops up the RNA strand and re-assembles them, typically after deleting certain unwanted segments. Splicing occurs for most human genes, and cells can re-assemble the RNA segments in different ways so different versions of a protein can be made from a single gene. However, defects in splicing can lead to many diseases – including CF when CFTR’s gene transcript is mis-spliced.

In principle, properly designed oligonucleotides can correct some kinds of splicing defects. In recent years the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved two “splice switching oligonucleotide” therapies for inherited muscular diseases.

In practice, though, getting oligonucleotides into cells, and to the locations within cells where they can correct RNA splicing defects, has been extremely challenging for some organs.

“It has been especially difficult to get significant concentrations of oligonucleotides into the lungs to target pulmonary diseases,” Kreda said.

Therapeutic oligonucleotides, when injected into the blood, have to run a long gauntlet of biological systems that are designed to keep the body safe from viruses and other unwanted molecules. Even when oligonucleotides get into cells, the most usually are trapped within vesicles called endosomes, and are sent back outside the cell or degraded by enzymes before they can ever do their work.

A new delivery strategy

The strategy developed by Kreda, Juliano, and their colleagues overcomes these obstacles by adding two new features to splice switching oligonucleotides: Firstly, the oligonucleotides are connected to short, protein-like molecules called peptides that are designed to help them to distribute in the body and get into cells. Secondly, there is a separate treatment with small molecules called OECs, developed by Juliano and Initos, which help the therapeutic oligonucleotides escape their entrapment within endosomes.

The researchers demonstrated this combined approach in cultured airway cells from a human CF patient with a common splicing-defect mutation.

“Adding it just once to these cells, at a relatively low concentration, essentially corrected CFTR to a normal level of functioning, with no evidence of toxicity to the cells,” Kreda said.

The results were much better with than without OECs, and improved with OEC dose.

There is no mouse model for splicing-defect CF, but the researchers successfully tested their general approach using a different oligonucleotide in a mouse model of a splicing defect affecting a reporter gene. In these experiments, the researchers observed that the correction of the splicing defect in the mouse lungs lasted for at least three weeks after a single treatment – hinting that patients taking such therapies might need only sporadic dosing.

The researchers now plan further preclinical studies of their potential CF treatment in preparation for possible clinical trials.

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Yan Dang, Catharina van Heusden, Veronica Nickerson, Felicity Chung, Yang Wang, Nancy Quinney, Martina Gentzsch, and Scott Randell were other contributors to this study from the Marsico Lung Institute; Ryszard Kole a co-author from the UNC Department of Pharmacology.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the National Institutes of Health supported this work.

https://news.unchealthcare.org/2021/06/scientists-demonstrate-promising-new-approach-for-treating-cystic-fibrosis/

Source: https://bioengineer.org/scientists-demonstrate-promising-new-approach-for-treating-cystic-fibrosis/

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Bruisable artificial skin could help prosthetics, robots sense injuries

Credit: Adapted from ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 2021, DOI: 10.1021/acsami.1c04911 When someone bumps their elbow against a wall, they

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Credit: Adapted from ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 2021, DOI: 10.1021/acsami.1c04911

When someone bumps their elbow against a wall, they not only feel pain but also might experience bruising. Robots and prosthetic limbs don’t have these warning signs, which could lead to further injury. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces have developed an artificial skin that senses force through ionic signals and also changes color from yellow to a bruise-like purple, providing a visual cue that damage has occurred.

Scientists have developed many different types of electronic skins, or e-skins, that can sense stimuli through electron transmission. However, these electrical conductors are not always biocompatible, which could limit their use in some types of prosthetics. In contrast, ionic skins, or I-skins, use ions as charge carriers, similar to human skin. These ionically conductive hydrogels have superior transparency, stretchability and biocompatibility compared with e-skins. Qi Zhang, Shiping Zhu and colleagues wanted to develop an I-skin that, in addition to registering changes in electrical signal with an applied force, could also change color to mimic human bruising.

The researchers made an ionic organohydrogel that contained a molecule, called spiropyran, that changes color from pale yellow to bluish-purple under mechanical stress. In testing, the gel showed changes in color and electrical conductivity when stretched or compressed, and the purple color remained for 2-5 hours before fading back to yellow. Then, the team taped the I-skin to different body parts of volunteers, such as the finger, hand and knee. Bending or stretching caused a change in the electrical signal but not bruising, just like human skin. However, forceful and repeated pressing, hitting and pinching produced a color change. The I-skin, which responds like human skin in terms of electrical and optical signaling, opens up new opportunities for detecting damage in prosthetic devices and robotics, the researchers say.

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The authors acknowledge funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Program for Guangdong Introducing Innovative and Entrepreneurial Teams, Shenzhen Science and Technology Program, 2019 Special Program for Central Government Guiding Local Science and Technology Development: Environmental Purification Functional Materials Research Platform, Shenzhen Key Laboratory of Advanced Materials Product Engineering and the CUHK-Shenzhen Presidential Fund.

The abstract that accompanies this paper is available here.

The American Chemical Society (ACS) is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS’ mission is to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and all its people. The Society is a global leader in promoting excellence in science education and providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple research solutions, peer-reviewed journals, scientific conferences, eBooks and weekly news periodical Chemical & Engineering News. ACS journals are among the most cited, most trusted and most read within the scientific literature; however, ACS itself does not conduct chemical research. As a leader in scientific information solutions, its CAS division partners with global innovators to accelerate breakthroughs by curating, connecting and analyzing the world’s scientific knowledge. ACS’ main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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Source: https://bioengineer.org/bruisable-artificial-skin-could-help-prosthetics-robots-sense-injuries/

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