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B.C. particle accelerator scores triumph with deal to produce ‘rarest drug on earth’ – Global News

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A team at the Canada’s particle accelerator facility at the University of British Columbia is celebrating a major triumph, inking a deal to produce a rare cancer drug that previously relied on nuclear waste.

The TRIUMF project has formed a partnership with Ontario-based Fusion Pharmaceuticals to upgrade its facility to produce actinium-225, nicknamed “the rarest drug on Earth.”

Read more:
BWXT Peterborough touts ‘tremendous progress’ in medical isotope production at Darlington nuclear station

That rare radioisotope started making headlines about five years ago when four treatments of it were administered to a German man who was just weeks from death, and suffering from multiple cancerous tumours.

Eight months later, the tumours had disappeared.

“We’re seeing cancer basically be eliminated in some cases, so those are very early results but very exciting ones,” TRIUMF Innovations CEO Kathryn Hayashi told Global News, of the isotope’s potential.

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Metro Vancouver company makes advance in medical isotope technology


Metro Vancouver company makes advance in medical isotope technology – Feb 26, 2020

But actinium-225 is very rare. Until now, the global supply of the material has come from U.S. radioactive waste.

In 2015, Paul Schaffer, one of TRIUMF’s associate lab directors, realized the institution was producing significant amounts of actinium-225 through the regular use of its high-energy cyclotron facility for research.

“The cyclotron speeds up protons to three-quarters of the speed of light using electromagnets. So it basically shoots it down a beam line and hits a beamline,” explained Hayashi.

Read more:
U of A researchers discover new drug that could revolutionize cancer treatment

“It basically blasts it apart and creates hundreds of different isotopes, and one of them is actinium-225.”

Hayashi says the facility theoretically has the capacity to scale up to produce thousands of doses of the drug.

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That’s particularly exciting, because actinium has in early research been shown to be effective at killing cancer cells, while leaving healthy parts of the human body unaffected.

“It’s very hard to develop resistance with actinium,” explained Dr. Francis Bernard, vice president of research at BC Cancer.


Click to play video 'Isotope lab waiting approval by Health Canada'



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Isotope lab waiting approval by Health Canada


Isotope lab waiting approval by Health Canada – Oct 30, 2016

“So we anticipate that this will be an effective third fourth line treatment, in addition to the other treatments available.”

The first step for TRIUMF will be to develop a supply chain.

Step two will involve rolling out clinical trials in British Columbia, potentially within the next 18 months.

“It’s sort of like sending a man to the moon or a woman to the moon,” said Bernard.

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“You know how to get there, you just need to develop resources.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Paleontologists finally have their first good look at a dinosaur's butt – CNET

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dinobutt1

Here’s a digital reconstruction of a Psittacosaurus dinosaur illustrating how the cloacal vent may have been used for signaling during courtship.


Bob Nicholls/Paleocreations.com 2020

Paleontologists spend their entire academic careers studying the anatomy of dinosaurs. Now a team of scientists from the University of Bristol has finally described in detail a dinosaur’s cloacal or vent, which is used for everything from defecation and urination to attracting a mate to breed with (or, less scientifically, a jack-of-all-trades butthole).

In a new study, published in the journal Current Biology on Tuesday, Scientists revealed a range of theories about the cloacal vent on a dog-sized dinosaur called Psittacosaurus, a relative of Triceratops from the early Cretaceous era, which lived about 120 million years ago.

“I noticed the cloaca several years ago after we had reconstructed the color patterns of this dinosaur using a remarkable fossil on display at the Senckenberg Museum in Germany which clearly preserves its skin and color patterns,” Dr. Jakob Vinther from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences said in a statement on Tuesday. 

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A closer look at the preserved cloacal vent in Psittacosaurus.


Dr Jakob Vinthe

“It took a long while before we got around to finish it off because no one has ever cared about comparing the exterior of cloacal openings of living animals, so it was largely unchartered territory,” Vinther added.

The researchers reveal the dinosaur’s cloaca has similar features as cloacas on alligators and crocodiles. The dino’s outer cloaca areas were also likely highly pigmented. This pigmentation may have been used to attract a mate, much like baboons use theirs.

“We found the vent does look different in many different groups of tetrapods, but in most cases, it doesn’t tell you much about an animal’s sex.” Dr. Diane Kelly from the University of Massachusetts Amherst said. “Those distinguishing features are tucked inside the cloaca, and unfortunately, they’re not preserved in this fossil.”

It’s not just the appearance of the dino’s vent that got the attention of mates, but also its smell. The large, pigmented lobes on either side of the cloacas could have also included musky scent glands to get the attention of a mate.

dinobutt3dinobutt3

A Psittacosaurus specimen from Senckenberg Museum of Natural History —  preserving skin and pigmentation patterns and the first, and only known, cloacal vent.


Jakob Vinther, University of Bristol and Bob Nicholls/Paleocreations.com 2020

“Knowing that at least some dinosaurs were signaling to each other gives palaeo-artists exciting freedom to speculate on a whole variety of now plausible interactions during dinosaur courtship,” palaeo-artist and study artist Robert Nicholls said in a statement. 

“It is a game-changer!” 

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A Habitat at Ceres Could be the Gateway to the Outer Solar System – Universe Today

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In the near future, humanity stands a good chance of expanding its presence beyond Earth. This includes establishing infrastructure in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), on the surface of (and in orbit around) the Moon, and on Mars. This presents numerous challenges, as living in space and on other celestial bodies entails all kinds of potential risks and health hazards – not the least of which are radiation and long-term exposure to low gravity.

These issues demand innovative solutions; and over the years, several have been proposed! A good example is Dr. Pekka Janhunen‘s concept for a megasatellite settlement in orbit around Ceres, the largest asteroid in the Main Belt. This settlement would provide artificial gravity for its residents while the local resources would allow for a closed-loop ecosystem to created inside – effectively bringing “terraforming” to a space settlement.

Dr. Janhunen – a theoretical physicist based in Helsinki, Finland – is no stranger to advanced concepts. In addition to being a research manager with the Finnish Meteorological Institute, he is a visiting professor with the University of Tatu and a senior technical advisor to Aurora Propulsion Technologies – where he is overseeing the commercial development of the Electric Solar Wind Sail (E-sail) concept he proposed back in 2006.

Exterior view of a Stanford torus. Bottom center is the non-rotating primary solar mirror, which reflects sunlight onto the angled ring of secondary mirrors around the hub. Credit: Donald E. Davis

The paper that describes his concept recently appeared online and has being submitted for publication to the scientific journal Elsevier. It’s a concept that Dr. Janhunen described to Universe Today as, “[T]erraforming from the user perspective: creating an artificial environment, near Ceres and of Ceres materials, that can scale up to the same and larger population than Earth has today.”

Rotating space habitats are a time-honored proposal and a suggested alternative to (or in conjunction with) habitats on other celestial bodies. The first recorded instance was Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s 1903 book, Beyond Planet Earth, where he described a pinwheel station in space that would rotate to provide artificial gravity.

This was followed by Herman Poto?nik’s expanded proposal in The Problem of Space Travel (1929), the Von Braun Wheel (1952), and Gerard K. O’Neill’s revolutionary proposal in The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space (1976) that called for a rotating cylinder in space – aka. the O’Neill Cylinder. However, all these concepts were for stations in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) or at an Earth-Sun Lagrange Point.

As Dr. Janhunen told Universe Today via email, a megasatellite constellation in orbit of Ceres could leverage the local resources to create Earth-like conditions:

“They provide Earth-like 1 g gravity, which is essential for human health, in particular essential for children to grow to healthy adults with fully developed muscles and bones. Ceres has nitrogen for making the habitat atmospheres, and it is large enough to provide almost unlimited resources. At the same time it is also small enough that its gravity is rather low so that lifting material from the surface is cheap.”

Artist’s depiction of a pair of O’Neill cylinders. Credit: Rick Guidice/NASA Ames Research Center

According to his study, the megasatellite settlement would consist of spinning habitats attached to a disk-shaped frame through passive magnetic bearings. This would allow for simulated gravity within the habitats, facilitate intra-settlement travel and ensure that population density remains low.

Dr. Janhunen estimates that it could be kept to 500 people per km2 (190 people per mi2), whereas cities like Manhattan and Mumbai have densities of roughly 27,500 and 32,303 people per km2 (or 71,340 and 83,660 people per mi2), respectively. The settlement would initially be furnished with soil 1.5 m (~5 ft) in depth, which could be upgraded to 4 m (~13 ft).

This would allow for greenspaces with gardens and trees that would produce the settlement’s oxygen and scrub the atmosphere of CO2 (as well as additional radiation shielding). Similarly, Ceres is known to have abundant supplies of ammonia salts on its surface (particularly around the bright spots in the Occator crater) that could be imported to the settlement and converted to nitrogen for use as a buffer gas.

Planar and parabolic mirrors located around the frame would direct concentrated sunlight to the habitats, providing illumination and allowing for photosynthesis to occur. While the creation of such a settlement presents many technical challenges and would require a massive commitment in resources, it would actually be easier in many respects that colonizing the Moon or Mars.

A view of Ceres in natural colour, pictured by the Dawn spacecraft in May 2015. Credit: NASA/ JPL/Planetary Society/Justin Cowart

For that matter, it would also be much easier than terraforming the Moon or Mars. As Dr. Janhunen explained:

“In some aspects easier (no need of planetary landing, no dust-storms, no long night). In all cases the main challenge is probably bootstrapping the industry in a remote place – one needs some robotics and AI, but they are coming to existence now, broadly speaking.”

But perhaps the most exciting aspect of this proposal is the fact that it allows for a space elevator! On Earth, such a structure remains impractical (as well as extremely expensive) because Earth’s gravity (9.8 m/s2, or 1 g) imposes some serious restrictions on space exploration. In short, a rocket must achieve an escape velocity of 11.186 km/s (40,270 km/h; 25,020 mph) to break free of Earth’s gravity.

On Ceres, however, the gravity is a fraction of what it is here on Earth – 0.28 m/s2 (less than 3%), which results in an escape velocity of just 510 meters per second (1.8 km/h; 1.14 mph). Combined with its rapid rotation, a space elevator is totally feasible and would be energetically cheap (compared to transporting them from other locations).

Of course, there’s also the benefit that such a settlement would have for exploring (and colonizing) the outer Solar System. With a large population and infrastructure around Ceres, ships destined for Jupiter, Saturn, and beyond would have a stopover point to refuel and take on supplies. Potential destinations for colonies could include the Galilean Moons, the moons of Saturn, or orbiting habitats in both systems.

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This would give humanity access to the abundant resources of these systems and usher in an age of post-scarcity. In the meantime, this Ceres megaconstellation would provide an Earth-like environment for a sizeable population within the Main Asteroid Belt, one that could be upgraded to make room for many more people. As Dr. Janhunen indicated:

“The Ceres megasatellite could scale up to hundreds of billions of people, probably, so it would suffice at least for a few centuries. Discussing future beyond that is hard, but in general, spreading to multiple places is what life generally does. On the other hand, people like to live in an interconnected world whose parts can [all] be accessed by travel.”

At its core, Dr. Janhunen’s concept is a marriage of space construction and in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) with some key elements of terraforming thrown in. The end result of this is a design for a scalable settlement that could allow human beings to colonize otherwise uninhabitable parts of the Solar System. When addressing the future of humanity in space, both the challenges and the rewards are clear.

In order to get to the rewards, we need to get mighty creative and be prepared to commit!

Further Reading: arXiv

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Paleontologists finally have their first good look at a dinosaur butthole – CNET

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dinobutt1

Here’s a digital reconstruction of a Psittacosaurus dinosaur illustrating how the cloacal vent may have been used for signaling during courtship.


Bob Nicholls/Paleocreations.com 2020

Paleontologists spend their entire academic careers studying the anatomy of dinosaurs. Now a team of scientists from the University of Bristol has finally described in detail a dinosaur’s cloacal or vent, which is used for everything from defecation and urination to attracting a mate to breed with (or, less scientifically, a jack-of-all-trades butthole).

In a new study, published in the journal Current Biology on Tuesday, Scientists revealed a range of theories about the cloacal vent on a dog-sized dinosaur called Psittacosaurus, a relative of Triceratops from the early Cretaceous era, which lived about 120 million years ago.

“I noticed the cloaca several years ago after we had reconstructed the color patterns of this dinosaur using a remarkable fossil on display at the Senckenberg Museum in Germany which clearly preserves its skin and color patterns,” Dr. Jakob Vinther from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences said in a statement on Tuesday. 

dinobutt2dinobutt2

A closer look at the preserved cloacal vent in Psittacosaurus.


Dr Jakob Vinthe

“It took a long while before we got around to finish it off because no one has ever cared about comparing the exterior of cloacal openings of living animals, so it was largely unchartered territory,” Vinther added.

The researchers reveal the dinosaur’s cloaca has similar features as cloacas on alligators and crocodiles. The dino’s outer cloaca areas were also likely highly pigmented. This pigmentation may have been used to attract a mate, much like baboons use theirs.

“We found the vent does look different in many different groups of tetrapods, but in most cases, it doesn’t tell you much about an animal’s sex.” Dr. Diane Kelly from the University of Massachusetts Amherst said. “Those distinguishing features are tucked inside the cloaca, and unfortunately, they’re not preserved in this fossil.”

It’s not just the appearance of the dino’s vent that got the attention of mates, but also its smell. The large, pigmented lobes on either side of the cloacas could have also included musky scent glands to get the attention of a mate.

dinobutt3dinobutt3

A Psittacosaurus specimen from Senckenberg Museum of Natural History —  preserving skin and pigmentation patterns and the first, and only known, cloacal vent.


Jakob Vinther, University of Bristol and Bob Nicholls/Paleocreations.com 2020

“Knowing that at least some dinosaurs were signaling to each other gives palaeo-artists exciting freedom to speculate on a whole variety of now plausible interactions during dinosaur courtship,” palaeo-artist and study artist Robert Nicholls said in a statement. 

“It is a game-changer!” 

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