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    Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists / 1 March 2017
    A visit to Russia's secret nuclear labs
    • Siegfried S. Hecker
    В феврале 1992 года состоялся первый «обмен визитами» между американскими и российскими ядерщиками, представителями Лос-Аламосской и Ливерморской национальных лабораторий с одной стороны, и ВНИИЭФ (Саров) и ВНИИТФ (Снежинск) с другой. Это ознаменовало новый поворот в отношениях между двумя ядерными сверхдержавами.

On February 23, 1992, less than two months after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, I landed on the tarmac in Sarov, a city the government had removed from maps to keep secret its status as a nuclear weapons center. I was then director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and accompanied by two senior scientists from my own lab plus three colleagues from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The six of us were about to walk through the birthplace of the Soviet nuclear bomb, the technological and intellectual powerhouse behind the sophisticated arsenal that had been pointed at our country for the previous 40 years.
Shockingly, after an hour-long flight from Moscow, we stepped out of the Aeroflot turboprop into the open arms of our Russian hosts: Yuli Borisovich Khariton, the scientific leader of the Soviet nuclear program, and other senior lab staff who had waited in the chilly wind to welcome us. Just as remarkable was the fact that this wasn't the first time we met our Russian counterparts. Two weeks earlier, directors of the Russian nuclear weapons labs, VNIIEF in Sarov and VNIITF in Snezhinsk, had for the first time in history set foot in our labs in Livermore and Los Alamos. This exchange of visits a quarter century ago marked a new turn in relations between the world's two nuclear weapons superpowers.
The road to Sarov. Our first meeting on Russian soil would have been deemed improbable just a few months earlier. The encounter on the Sarov tarmac grew out of both persistence by determined individuals and larger historical forces. As the Soviet Union scrambled to adjust domestic and international policy in the face of mounting economic and social challenges in the late 1980s, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev reached across the political divide to US President Ronald Reagan to take steps toward nuclear disarmament. One such step was the Joint Verification Experiment of 1988, in which the Soviet Union and the United States asked their nuclear weapons scientists to conduct parallel nuclear-explosion yield measurements at testing grounds in Nevada and Semipalatinsk, located in what is now Kazakhstan. The experiment helped overcome a stumbling block related to verification procedures needed to ratify the 1974 Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT). The 1988 nuclear tests enabled the two sides to sign a new ratification protocol in Geneva in June 1990, and the TTBT entered into force in December 1990.
As history would have it, an unintended outcome of the TTBT ratification effort proved to be the most momentous. Viktor Mikhailov, head of the Soviet team that took part in the Joint Verification Experiment and later Russian minister of atomic energy, was right when he said that "the main result of the Joint Verification Experiment was not the development of procedures and extent of nuclear test monitoring of the joint development of technical verification means, but the chance for interpersonal communications with the American nuclear physicists."
Indeed, it was working side by side at each other's test sites that gave rise to deep-rooted affinity and built trust. Over the years, we had only caught glimpses of our Soviet nuclear scientist counterparts at a few international conferences where they disguised their institutional affiliations, saying they were part of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. It was through months of collaboration at our test sites that the contours of their true home institutions - the nuclear weapons labs VNIIEF and VNIITF - began to emerge. As we would discover eventually, these Soviet labs were remarkably similar to our own. We realized that in addition to nuclear weapons work, they were conducting outstanding fundamental science. We became consumed with curiosity to learn more about it first-hand. The Russians were curious about our work as well.
We were all interested in cooperation, but the Russians even more so because they sensed before we did just how dramatically the Soviet Union was changing. Lev D. Ryabev, who headed the atomic ministry at the time, told me years later that Russian nuclear weapons scientists were so eager to work with their American counterparts because "we arrived in the nuclear century all in one boat - movement by any one will affect everyone. We were doomed to work together."
It was during a 1990 trip to Moscow by Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore lab scientists for technical discussions supporting the Geneva test ban talks that Mikhailov extended an impromptu invitation to visit the USSR's secret nuclear city Sarov (then called Arzamas-16) for the first time.
The American scientists returned with specific proposals from the VNIIEF director and his senior scientists for collaboration with the US labs, along with an invitation to Lawrence Livermore Director John Nuckolls and me to visit the secret Russian cities.
Convinced by my Los Alamos colleagues that this was a great opportunity to collaborate scientifically in important areas of research, I tried a number of avenues in Washington to get approval for exploring potential cooperation. I got little traction until the second half of 1991, after the Soviet Union had begun to disintegrate. As it did so, President George H.W. Bush became concerned that brain drain from the Soviet nuclear complex could lead to the spread of knowledge about how to build these weapons of mass destruction.
Driven by that concern, US Energy Secretary James D. Watkins approved my request for the laboratory directors' exchange visits, and two months after Gorbachev's formal dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991, we entered the surreal world of the Soviet Los Alamos.
A tradition worth sustaining. Our visits to Sarov and Snezhinsk shattered our Cold War preconceptions of the Soviet nuclear program. We were particularly impressed by the depth of scientific talent. Although they lacked modern computers and electronics, their computational achievements were remarkable, and their experimental facilities were innovative and functional. We found the scientists' dedication to their mission deeply patriotic, and their attention to nuclear weapons safety reassuring. During our briefings and tours, Russian scientists described leading-edge research in the fundamental science that underpinned their nuclear weapons program. The visits convinced me that our US nuclear labs should collaborate with their Russian counterparts, not only to help solve immediate problems like proliferation and loose nukes, but also because in doing so we would benefit scientifically.
Our Russian colleagues were prepared with proposals for cooperation in a surprisingly broad range of areas. During a daylong session in Chief Weapon Designer Boris Litvinov's office in Snezhinsk, watched by portraits of Lenin and Igor Kurchatov, one of the fathers of the Soviet Bomb, we hammered out a protocol for cooperation that we would take back to our governments. We came up with a long list problems we wanted to work on together. It included enhancing the security and safety of nuclear weapons during reduction and dismantlement; preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons knowledge; promoting the conversion and diversification of nuclear facilities; preventing non-nuclear states and terrorists from obtaining nuclear weapons; developing joint mechanisms for emergency response; enhancing the safety of nuclear arsenals; preventing unauthorized use of remaining weapons; and promoting protection and cleanup of the environment at nuclear weapons facilities.
It turned out that we scientists were far ahead of what the US government was prepared to authorize at the time. We heard that when members of the National Security Council staff, which coordinated interagency government issues with Russia, received a copy of the protocol, they declared it did not exist and threw it in the waste paper basket. However, Nuckolls and I presented the protocol to Watkins and received approval to proceed, though only in fundamental science cooperation.
By May 1992, even though the US Energy and State Departments had only agreed to general principles, the former had provided us with the necessary financial support and the latter with the required permissions for travel to Russia. Just as importantly, we had defined what we wanted to do first in the collaboration we called lab-to-lab. We planned for joint experiments in high-energy-density physics and conferences on computer modeling and simulation.
In spite of the initial US government concerns, we would eventually end up cooperating in almost all the areas outlined in the initial protocol. A spirit of collaboration prevailed for nearly a quarter century, and was essential to successfully mitigating the dangers resulting from the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, that cooperation has all but come to an end during the past few years as relations between Moscow and Washington have soured. But the benefits of future cooperation are potentially enormous, as a new report from the Nuclear Threat Initiative makes clear. The US and Russian governments, as well as the two countries' scientists, should seize any opportunities that arise to rekindle nuclear cooperation.

Copyright © 2017 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. All Rights Reserved.

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    National Geographic / March 2, 2017
    Siberia's Growing "Doorway to Hell" Offers Clues on Climate Change
    A new study suggests that the expanding hole might provide fresh insight into a warming world.
    • By Sarah Gibbens
    Батагайский кратер в Якутии начал формироваться в результате таяния вечной мерзлоты в 1960-х гг., достигнув к данному моменту 1 км в длину и 86 метров в глубину и продолжая увеличиваться. Международная группа ученых (Великобритания, Россия, США, Польша) полагает, что изучение открывшихся слоев почвы может дать информацию о том, как менялись климат и окружающая среда за последние 200 тысяч лет. Первые результаты опубликованы в журнале Quaternary Research.

Some call it a doorway to hell. Or a portal to the underworld. Scientists call it a crater. But everyone agrees that it's getting bigger.
The Batagiaka crater in eastern Siberia, already the largest of its kind, has been growing wider. The most recent measurements, published in February of this year, estimate the crater to be 0.6 miles long and 282 feet deep. These numbers are expected to continue gradually increasing.
The local Yukatian people approach the area with caution. They report hearing ominous noises, leading some to call it a portal to the underworld. For scientists, however, the crater offers a more Earthly fascination.
Siberia's crater is caused by melting permafrost, perennially frozen soil that remains in that state for at least two consecutive years. The resulting irregular terrain of mounds and hollows is called thermokarst.
A new study published in the journal Quaternary Research indicates that the crater may allow scientists to view more than 200,000 years of climate change in Siberia. Scientists plan to collect sediment to analyze how the landscape changed as climate warmed and cooled during the last Ice Age. This could provide insights for today's climate change issues. Satellite imagery indicates that the crater expands, on average, by 33 feet per year.
Melting began in the 1960s, spurred by rapid deforestation due to development As trees that shaded the frozen soil were removed, the sun began warming the soil, causing the ice to melt. The formation of the hole has accelerated further in recent years as the planet has warmed steadily, spurred by rising greenhouse gases.
Eroding and melting soil cause a phenomena that is often known as "drunken trees," in which trees cannot grow straight, further reducing the amount of shade covering the ground. This process is happening across parts of the entire north, from Alaska to Eurasia.
As layers of deep sediment rapidly melt, it can cause the top layer of soil to slump downward, causing massive craters that damage pipelines, crack pavement, and even swallow houses whole. Increasing thermokarst is not only one result of a warming climate, but it may also be a cause of warming temperatures in the future. Scientist estimate that as much as 50 percent of the Earth's methane gas may be stored in Arctic and Northern Hemisphere permafrost (methane is a greenhouse gas more powerful than carbon dioxide).
A 2016 study in the journal Nature Communications looked at greenhouse gases released from Siberian permafrost in the last ice age and found that the climate experienced a significant spike in temperatures from this alone. A spike, they believe, that could happen again.
"The Arctic carbon reservoir locked in the Siberian permafrost has the potential to lead to massive emissions of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere," the study's co-author Francesco Muschitiello told Columbia University's science blog after the study's release.
The Batagiaka crater may be Siberia's biggest but it's not its only permafrost-induced crater. Dozens were found in the country as recently as 2015.

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society.
Copyright © 2015-2017 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

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    EurekAlert / 7-Mar-2017
    Moscow State University scientists reveal the secret of naked mole-rat longevity
    The discovery opens an opportunity to stop the aging of humans.
    Млекопитающее голый землекоп (Heterocephalus glaber), грызун размером с мышь, живет невероятно долго для своего размера - до 30 лет. Группа российских и немецких биологов и математиков установила, что в основе долголетия грызунов и людей лежит одно и то же явление - неотения, замедляющая старение способность долгое время сохранять черты молодых особей.

New paper was recently published in one of the most prominent scientific journals: Physiological Reviews. A group of Russian and German biologists and mathematicians that authored the publication was led by profs. Victor Sadovnichii, Vladimir Skulachev (Moscow State University) and prof. Thomas Hildebrandt (Leibniz Institute, Berlin). The work provides strong arguments in support of new break-through hypothesis explaining the phenomenon of exceptional longevity of naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber, an African rodent). According to the hypothesis these animals managed to slow down the process of individual development and it resulted in a dramatic increase of the period of youth and decelerated aging.
A similar process has begun in humans as well. Analysis of data on human longevity and reproduction period indicates that humans have already slowed down the pace of our "Master Biological Clock" and this deceleration progresses along human history. It results in increased lifespan and prolongation of youth.
Such regulation of the rate of aging means that the aging process (in both naked mole-rats and humans) is genetically programmed and cannot be explained by simple accumulation of random damage with age. This is a very important statement because modern science is already capable of switching off some biological programs, for example a program of cell suicide - apoptosis. Prof. Vladimir Skulachev's research group is now trying to apply the same method to retard the program of aging using specially designed compounds: mitochondrially-targeted antioxidants. Comment from Victor Sadovnichii, rector of Moscow State University:
"This work is a great example of cooperation of different departments of our university within our "Noah's Ark" project supported by Russian Scientific Foundation. The study was performed jointly by Belozersky institute of MSU, and by departments of Biology and Mathematics. In fact aging studies are based on different statistical datasets. Traditionally it is one of the most "mathematics-oriented" areas of biology. In this particular case statistical analysis demonstrated a very important fact: human aging is already decelerating."
Comment from Vladimir Skulachev, head of Belozersky institute of Moscow State University:
"I think our work proves that the biological evolution of two highly social species of mammals (humans and naked mole-rats) resulted in deceleration of the aging program and prolongation of youth. So the aging is indeed a program and it was already slowed down by natural selection. But we, humans, no longer use the extremely slow method of natural evolution. We use technical and scientific progress to achieve our goals. I suppose it is exactly the time when we must apply this method against aging."

Copyright © 2017 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

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    Space Ref / March 10, 2017
    NASA Studying Shared Venus Science Objectives with Russian Space Research Institute
    Представители НАСА и Института космических исследований РАН встретятся в Москве для обсуждения научных задач совместной миссии к Венере.

A team of NASA-sponsored scientists will meet with the Russian Academy of Sciences' Space Research Institute (IKI) next week to continue work on a Joint Science Definition Team study focused on identifying shared science objectives for Venus exploration. The visit comes after a report was recently delivered to both NASA Headquarters in Washington and IKI in Moscow, assessing and refining the science objectives of the IKI Venera-D (Venera-Dolgozhivuschaya) Mission to Venus, Earth's closest planetary neighbor.
"While Venus is known as our 'sister planet,' we have much to learn, including whether it may have once had oceans and harbored life," said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "By understanding the processes at work at Venus and Mars, we will have a more complete picture about how terrestrial planets evolve over time and obtain insight into the Earth's past, present and future."
Venus has intrigued scientists for decades. Similar to Earth in composition and size, it spins slowly in the opposite direction. The rocky world's thick atmosphere traps heat in a runaway greenhouse effect, making it the warmest planet in our solar system with surface temperatures hot enough to melt lead. Glimpses below the clouds reveal volcanoes and an intricate landscape. Venus is named for the Roman goddess of love and beauty, the counterpart to the Greek goddess Aphrodite.
"On a solar-system scale, Earth and Venus are very close together and of similar size and makeup," said David Senske, co-chair of the U.S. Venera-D science definition team, and a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "Among the goals that we would like to see if we can accomplish with such a potential partnership is to understand how Venus' climate operates so as to understand the mechanism that has given rise to the rampant greenhouse effect we see today."
The IKI Venera-D mission concept as it stands today would include a Venus orbiter that would operate for up to three years, and a lander designed to survive the incredibly harsh conditions a spacecraft would encounter on Venus' surface for a few hours. The science definition team is also assessing the potential of flying a solar-powered airship in Venus' upper atmosphere. The independent flying vehicle could be released from the Venera-D lander, enter the atmosphere, and independently explore Venus' atmosphere for up to three months.
NASA first visited Venus when the JPL-managed Mariner 2 collected data during a flyby in December 1962. NASA's last dedicated mission to explore Venus was Magellan. Launched in 1990, and managed by JPL, Magellan used radar to map 98 percent of the planet at a resolution of 330 feet (100 meters) or better during its four-year mission.
The Venera spacecraft program is the only one to date to successfully land on Venus and survive its harsh environment. Said Adriana Ocampo, who leads the Joint Science Definition Team at NASA Headquarters in Washington, "This potential collaboration makes for an enriching partnership to maximize the science results from Venera-D, and continue the exploration of this key planet in our solar system."

© 2017 SpaceRef Interactive Inc. All right are reserved.

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    The New York Times / March 13, 2017
    A Russian Lake's Future Hangs on Tourists and Toilets
    • By Neil MacFarquhar
    После закрытия Байкальского целлюлозно-бумажного комбината в 2013 г. борьба за сохранение озера Байкал ведется по другим направлениям. Теперь нужно контролировать многочисленные потоки туристов, а также менять привычки местного населения, у которого многие природоохранные меры вызывают недовольство.

BAYKALSK, Russia - Toilets are the talk of Lake Baikal these days, at least among the ecologically minded.
For years, their main bogyman was the Soviet-era Baykalsk Paper and Pulp Mill that sat on the shoreline belching pollutants into the spectacular lake, which contains about one-fifth of the unfrozen freshwater on the earth's surface. Three years after the plant closed, the fight to preserve the lake has shifted to different battlegrounds.
Some consider the next struggle even harder. It involves changing the daily habits of people who have lived in this distant corner of Siberia for generations, as well as controlling the waxing tide of mostly Chinese tourists for whom the lake has become a romantic destination.
"It was easy to say this plant is to blame, it is bad," said Marina Rikhvanova, 55, who made preserving the lake her lifelong ambition. "It is much harder to say that I am to blame because my toilet is the problem."
The lake, a United Nations World Heritage Site, sits like a giant blue apostrophe on the Siberian map, a narrow rift valley forming the largest, deepest body of freshwater on the planet. Younger generations are far more cognizant that the lake needs protecting, but the mind-set is not yet universal.
"We have raised several generations who look at this differently - from kindergarten they know what Baikal is, that nature needs to be preserved," said Nikolai N. Volodchenkov, 63, a retired, 40-year veteran of the Baikalsky Nature Reserve in the village of Tankhoy. Still charged with feeding two caged sables daily, he revels in the fact that the lake water stopped smelling after the paper mill shut.
The plant was finally shuttered, more for economic than ecological reasons, and now, signs of a profound transformation are visible around Baykalsk, a town of about 13,000 people on the lake's southern shore. It is trying to molt, shedding the skin of a gritty industrial pocket and replacing it with the look of a health spa. New offerings include downhill skiing with stunning lake views, log cabin hotels and a cornucopia of dried berries gathered from the surrounding woods that can be washed down with organic Siberian teas.
It has a ways to go.
When Ms. Rikhvanova first showed up here in the 1990s demanding that the plant be closed, residents despised her for threatening their only source of jobs. Some resentment still simmers, but many who wanted the security of government factory work moved away, and the outlook shifted.
"If 'environmentalist' was a dirty word before, now every resident of Baykalsk says, 'I am an environmentalist,'" said Tatiana Gluckman, a sprightly pulp factory employee turned town politician who jousted with Ms. Rikhvanova before becoming her main local ally. "Perhaps I am idealizing a bit, but it is mostly like that."
Ms. Rikhvanova used a $25,000 environmental prize to subsidize nine of 60 projects submitted to a contest she sponsored for residents to create environmentally friendly jobs. "We had to overcome that Soviet inertia and make people believe in themselves," Ms. Gluckman said.
Boris Brisyuk, 63, a fleshy engineer with a red face, is one convert. He left the pulp plant to work at various jobs, including taxi driver and electrician, before deciding in 2015 to start his own business helping people develop their own lines of dried berries and juices.
He walked into an eatery staggering under the weight of shopping bags overflowing with containers of dried berries and bottles of berry extract. "When it comes to the relationship between ecology and being able to live, people still care more about income," he confessed.
The latest environmental measure that has people grumbling is a two-year ban on fishing for omul, a smoked delicacy hawked by fishwives all around the lake.
The biggest environmental concern is the tourist boom, however. The flight from Beijing to Irkutsk is less than three hours. Chinese tourists have been flooding the area since the 2014 collapse in the price of the ruble.
A team of Russian and Chinese investors recently announced plans to spend more than $11 billion developing hotels and other tourist infrastructure. Environmentalists are worried that if the plan materializes it will not just be honky-tonk, but ecologically destructive.
"You cannot have tourists in a place not set up for them," said Vasily I. Sutula, who oversees the 460,000-acre Baikalsky State Nature Biosphere Reserve, after showing off a handsome new lakeside visitors' center where he is weighing adding Chinese labels to the descriptions of flora and fauna. "What is most important is not these Chinese labels, but more toilets, ecological trails, guesthouses."
One of the hardest points to drive home in Russia, with its vast size, is that resources are limited. If land or water was polluted, there was always more elsewhere. It is that attitude that the nature reserve is striving to change.
As the population attracted to the lake swells, environmentalists are focused on the almost total lack of either water purification plants or biological toilets that produce compost instead of wastewater. "Toilets, kitchens - all those pollutants flow into the ground water and then straight into Lake Baikal," Ms. Rikhvanova said.
Large algal blooms have become a scourge in places, although some people argue that they result from lower lake levels brought on by a drought rather than any human factor. Some villagers near the lake have trouble getting water because artesian wells have run dry.
"People think that because they have lived on the Baikal for hundreds of years and there have always been such toilets, it can go on forever," Ms. Rikhvanova said. "There is still insufficient understanding that Lake Baikal is big, but fragile."
Other threats lurk.
The chemicals abandoned when the paper mill closed are seeping into the ground water and will eventually contaminate the lake, according to a study by the Irkutsk region's Ministry of Natural Resources. Plans by Mongolia to dam the Selenga River, which flows into the lake, are also a Russian concern.
Moscow has taken some measures to protect the lake. Sergey Donskoy, the federal minister of natural resources, said the government would build a new sewage management system in the area, and it is giving more power to the local authorities to execute a federal preservation program.
Far greater grass-roots awareness also helps. The issue of Baikal is the one subject that spontaneously draws thousands of protesters onto the streets when the threat is obvious. A few years ago when Transneft, the state-run pipeline behemoth, proposed building an oil pipeline along the shore, the vociferous public response led President Vladimir V. Putin to order the pipeline moved away from the lake - one of the rare occasions when he bowed to a protest.
Businessmen are trying to create different experiences like green hotels that cultivate seedlings of endangered local plants. The Great Baikal Trail organization attracts thousands of volunteers every summer who help build hiking trails, and it plans to build environmentally friendly toilets.
Together it signals a shift in attitude, but Ms. Rikhvanova called it premature to declare the battle for Lake Baikal complete.
"We have made changes, that is for sure, but for now I cannot say that we have won," she said. "There are too many unresolved problems. For the moment, it does not quite work to shout 'Hurrah!'"

© 2017 The New York Times Company.

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    EurekAlert / 15-Mar-2017
    Elucidated connection between renal failure and "bad" mitochondria described
    Scientists described an elucidated connection between renal failure and 'bad' mitochondria.
    Биологи из НИИ физико-химической биологии им. А.Н.Белозерского при участии Института цитологии и генетики СО РАН выяснили, каким образом можно предотвратить развитие почечной недостаточности в результате ишемии, и почему эта методика не работает у пожилых пациентов. Результаты исследования опубликованы в журнале Scientific Reports.

Biologists from the A.N. Belozersky Institute of Physico-Chemical Biology, a unit of the Lomonosov Moscow State University suggested the approach to prevent kidney injury after ischemia. Moreover, the scientists explained why these mechanisms become non-protective in kidney of an old organism. The results of the study are published in the Scientific Reports journal.
The project ran by scientists from the A.N. Belozersky Institute of Physico-Chemical Biology, Lomonosov Moscow State University is focused on elucidation of mechanisms underlying such severe pathologyas renal failure, caused by ischemia (renal infarct).
Egor Plotnikov, Doctor of Biological Sciences, Professor of the Russian Academy of Sciences, a Leading Researcher at the Laboratory of mitochondria' structure and functions, working at the A.N. Belozersky Institute of Physico-Chemical Biology, Lomonosov Moscow State University and one of the corresponding authors of the article, comments: "We've shown that it's possible to prevent kidney damage by its preliminary "training" by short periods of ischemia (blocking of blood supply). However, our main discovery is the fact that this mechanism is disabled in old animals and, as a result, a kidney becomes unprotected. It is extremely important problem as the major part of clinical cases of renal failure occurs in aged patients. To afford the protection of their kidneys would be a great success for medicine".
In experiments young and old rats were used, although what scientists note to get old animals for the experiment is not easy. However, the Institute of Cytology and Genetics, Novosibirsk, provided the Moscow scientists with a unique strain of premature aged rats OXYS, using whose all results and deciphered mechanisms have been proved.
Egor Plotnikov follows: "In the current article we describe what underlies such a loss of adaptation in kidney in old rats (and, probably, in old people). All cells acquire a mechanism of "quality control", which provides removal of damaged cellular elements (in our case - damaged mitochondria) responsible for permanent self-renewal of the system. However, these mechanisms become broken in an old kidney and its adaptive mechanisms stop functioning".
The basic mitochondrial function in any cell, including kidney cells, is energy production. Due to oxidation of substrates, energy is stored in the form of a universal energy form, ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). A mitochondrion operates as a power-station in the proper sense of the word as initially energy is stored in the inner mitochondrial membrane in the form of electrical potential and only after that it is converted into ATP. Besides that, mitochondria have many other functions: synthesis of some hormones and other substances, detoxification and other functions, including determination of the cell fate - to die or to survive. Moreover, most of these functions are more or less functionally connected with the very electrical transmembrane potential.
The scientists revealed that a considerable number of mitochondria in old rats have lower transmembrane potential and this process inevitably leads to cell death. Since kidney cells cannot proliferate, their death becomes irreplaceable and the more they die, the tougher renal injury is. When this happens a kidney is no more able to fulfill its main functions: to remove products of metabolism from the organism, many of which are quite toxic. That's why such "bad" mitochondria should be removed in the process of "quality control". In a young kidney quality control depends on transmembrane potential of mitochondria - when it drops below the critical value for a long time, a mitochondrion gets a "black label" in the form of a special protein - PINK-1. Such a labeled mitochondrion undergoes a process of self-destruction (autophagy) and becomes destroyed in a lysosome (a special organelle, acting as a cellular "stomach"). In cells of old kidneys this process is broken and damaged mitochondria with low potential cannot be destroyed but, on the contrary, are increased in number.
The scientists emphasize: it is possible that they discovered a factor which is a marker of old (or possible premature old) cells. This factor is protein acetylation. In the organ damaged by ischemia the number of proteins to which acetyl group (an acetic acid moiety) is attached significantly increases. But the most important thing is the fact that the number of acetylated proteins in a kidneyrises with aging.
Egor Plotnikov says: "We've shown that training (preconditioning) doesn't work in old age because "bad mitochondria" aren't removed by autophagy. There is the following process: we block blood supply of the kidney (namely, we deprive it of oxygen and substrates) and under these conditions the weakest mitochondria in cells lose their potential and are immediately removed by the quality control system. As a result the "renewal" or just "purges" of mitochondrion population takes place and only the healthy ones survive.
That's why in case of severe kidney ischemia mitochondria can cope with the damage and they survive. And what happens in old rats? We do kidney preconditioning, mitochondria lose their potential but they aren't removed as the clean up system operates poorly. As a result of such training "bad" mitochondria are only accumulated in an old cell and in case of kidney ischemia everything gets even worse."
Similar procedures of kidney training are already conducted for people. It has been shown earlier by another scientific group that the mechanism of ischemic or hypoxic training also operates in a human organism. Moreover, clinical practice shows that organs of aged people don't respond to many defensive agents (namely, drugs, simulating preconditioning). As it's quite difficult to cut off blood supply in some organs in a human body (to do so, special surgical intervention in order to constrict renal vessels are needed), so called remote preconditioning (distant training) is used in clinics. This technique allows to interrupt blood supply of an organ (for instance, a muscle) - it looks like arterial blood pressure measurement with using a blood pressure cuff, when an arm or a leg of a patient is squeezed for several minutes. This procedure has not been applied for kidney protection yet, but positive effects for a heart have been observed. However, all these techniques don't work in case of old patients.
Egor Plotnikov concludes: "This project opens a prospect for renal failure treatment. Moreover, mechanisms that we discovered are quite universal, so it's obvious that they are also applicable not only to kidney ischemia, but also to other renal pathologies. It's becoming clear why, on the one hand, aged people suffer from severe kidney injury so often and on the other hand, why most modern treatment methods are helpless when used in case of old people. Our data show the trend for further development of drugs, which could help an old kidney to recover capacity to resist ischemia and increase its adaptation reserves."

Copyright © 2017 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

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    Zonebourse / 15/03/2017
    La Suisse et la Russie discutent de leur coopération en recherche et innovation
    Швейцария и Россия обсудили сотрудничество в области научных исследований и инноваций на третьем заседании Объединенного комитета по научно-техническому сотрудничеству, которое состоялось 14 марта в Берне.

Institué par l'Accord de coopération scientifique et technologique signé en décembre 2012 avec la Fédération de Russie, le Comité conjoint de coopération scientifique et technologique a tenu sa troisième rencontre ce mardi 14 mars 2017 à Berne.
La délégation suisse, composée de représentants des milieux académiques et de la recherche suisses et dirigée par l'Ambassadeur Mauro Moruzzi, a accueilli à cette occasion une délégation d'une dizaine de représentants provenant du Ministère de l'Education et de la Science, des agences de financement de la recherche et du monde académique russes.
Les discussions ont principalement porté sur l'état actuel et le développement possible de la coopération dans le domaine de la recherche : le comité s'est informé de l'avancement des 25 projets de recherche conjoints qui ont débuté fin 2015 et a discuté des modalités pour le lancement d'un nouvel appel à projets. Le comité a également abordé la coopération dans le domaine de l'innovation, où un renforcement pourrait voir le jour d'ici la fin de l'année dans le cadre multilatéral de l'initiative EUREKA.
La Suisse et la Russie sont des partenaires de longue date et des liens intenses existent entre les deux communautés scientifiques. Entre 2011 et 2016, plus de 130 collaborations directes entre chercheurs suisses et russes ont été financées pour un montant de plus de 14 millions de francs côté suisse. Sur la même période, 120 projets financés par le Fonds National Suisse ont indiqué collaborer avec des chercheurs russes. Depuis 1968, plus de 300 jeunes chercheurs russes ont bénéficié des bourses d'excellence de la Confédération. Par ailleurs, la Suisse et la Russie sont membres d'organisations internationales de recherche de grande importance dans le domaine de l'analyse des matériaux : l'ESRF à Grenoble et European XFEL à Hambourg.

Copyright © 2017 Surperformance. Tous droits réservés.

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    Phys.org / March 16, 2017
    Russian scientists teach ultrasound find and kill cancer cells
    Российские физики и биологи при участии французских и ирландских коллег использовали покрытые биополимером наночастицы кремния для «подсветки» и уничтожения раковых опухолей с помощью ультразвука, не повреждая при этом здоровые ткани. Результаты исследования опубликованы в журнале Nanotechnology.

A group of physicists and biologists from Russia under the supervision of Professor Viktor Timoshenko from the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI (Russia) has used silicone nanoparticles for highlighting and destroying cancer tumors with the help of the ultrasound, leaving healthy tissues unharmed. The study has been published in Nanotechnology.
"We have found a part-load mode for therapeutic treatment of cancer cells, which doesn't lead to massive explosion of cells but is largely reduced to the destruction of intracellular organs by nanoparticles," says Andrey Sviridov from the Lomonosov MSU. He says that covering the particles in a biopolymer doesn't worsen their acoustic properties, but leads to a better therapeutic effect.
Lately physicists, chemists, and nanotechnologists are developing new surgical and therapeutic methods that are conducted without body rupture and damaging of tissues and organs. For example, researchers have developed nanoparticles that are introduced into tumors and then heated with a laser. This destroys the cancer, but doesn't affect healthy cells. A similar effect is caused by gene therapy and special medicines, preventing the growth of vessels in tumors and starving cancer cells.
Sviridov and his colleagues have created special silicone nanoparticles, which can also be used for studying cancer tumors and their destruction via ultrasound.
The main problem of such methods of cancer treatment is that ultrasound and nanoparticles often act indiscriminately, destroying not only tumor, but also healthy cells. Moreover, such nanoparticles often too quickly dissolve inside the organism.
Timoshenko, Sviridov, and their colleagues have solved this problem, covering nanoparticles from porous silicone with a layer of dextran, a biopolymer from dextrose molecules. Such particles, the biologists claim, not only dissolve more slowly than their uncovered analogues, but shine under ultraviolet radiation, which allows their use to highlight researched tumors and cell samples.
The particles were via ultrasound separately and in the presence of nanoparticles on cancer cell cultures extracted from human larynx tumors.
As experiments have shown, "clear" ultrasound doesn't affect cancer cells, while its combination with nanoparticles kills them, destroying mitochondria and other organelles in cancer cells.
Apart from ultrasound strengthening, the nanoparticles can be used for delivery of medicines and other molecules inside healthy or cancer cells. Heating with the help of ultrasound or radio waves makes therapeutic molecules more mobile, which strengthens their efficiency. These techniques will need to pass a series of clinical tests on animals or volunteers over several years, and such experiments don't always end up positively.

© Phys.org 2003-2017, Science X network.

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    ScienceAlert / 21 Mar 2017
    7,000 Huge Gas Bubbles Have Formed Under Siberia, and Could Explode at Any Moment
    What happens when the permafrost thaws.
    • Bec Crew
    Источники газовых выбросов - «пузыри» - и образующиеся после их взрыва воронки часто обнаруживают на Севере (в основном на Ямале) в последние несколько лет. Ученые разрабатывают методику, позволяющую определить степень опасности «пузыря» и спрогнозировать возможный выброс газа и его последствия.

Last year, researchers in Siberia's remote Bely Island made the bizarre discovery that the ground had started bubbling in certain places, and was squishy under the locals' feet like jelly.
At the time, just 15 of these swollen bubbles had been identified, but an investigation in the wider region of the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas has revealed that 7,000 or so of them have cropped up, and the concern now is that they could explode at any moment.
"At first, such a bump is a bubble, or 'bulgunyakh' in the local Yakut language," Alexey Titovsky, director of the Yamal Department for Science and Innovation, told The Siberian Times.
"With time, the bubble explodes, releasing gas. This is how gigantic funnels form."
Those gigantic funnels Titovsky is referring to are every bit as intimidating as they sound.
While collapsed bubbles can form fairly small 'pockmarks' in the ground, they've also been linked to the massive sinkholes and craters that have been appearing across Siberia. Now picture thousands of these death traps dotted across the landscape, with each of the 7,000 newly identified bubbles poised to explode without warning.
So what exactly is going on here?
Back in 2016, local environmental researchers Alexander Sokolov and Dorothee Ehrich decided to pull back the dirt and grass that had been blanketing these bulging bumps of earth, and found that the air escaping from them contained up to 1,000 times more methane than the surrounding air, and 25 times more carbon dioxide.
And things can get even weirder at the bottom of the biggest sinkholes - a 2014 investigation into a 30-metre-wide (98-foot) crater on the Yamal Peninsula found that air near the bottom of the crater contained unusually high concentrations of methane - up to 9.6 percent.
As Katia Moskvitch reported for Nature at the time, archaeologist Andrei Plekhanov from the Scientific Centre of Arctic Studies in Salekhard, Russia, told her that the surrounding air usually contains just 0.000179 percent methane.
Researchers have hypothesised that these methane bubbles are linked to a recent heatwave that had prompted the Siberian tundra's permafrost to thaw. Siberia's permafrost has become famous for its ability to keep things perfectly preserved for thousands of years, such as this amazing 12,400-year-old puppy, or these adorable lion cubs, which still had their tawny fur coats on after 30,000 years.
A 2013 study found that a global temperature rise of 1.5°C would be enough to kickstart an unprecedented period of melting, but thanks to abnormally hot summers linked to climate change, local researchers suspect that this is already starting to occur, with daily temperatures in July 2016 hitting a worrying 35°C (95°F).
"Their appearance at such high latitudes is most likely linked to thawing permafrost, which in is in turn linked to overall rise of temperature on the north of Eurasia during last several decades," a spokesperson for the Ural branch of Russian Academy of Science told The Siberian Times.
We're still waiting on some peer-reviewed research to come from these investigations so we can know more about the evidence scientists are using to link methane bubbles to climate change, but it looks like the unique geology that makes up the Siberian tundra also plays a big role in the phenomenon.
According to Vasily Bogoyavlensky from the Russian Academy of Sciences, who has been studying these bubbles for years now, the earth here has been dated to the Cenomanian era of the Late Cretaceous epoch (100.5 to 93.9 million years ago) and has been identified as an ancient, shallow gas reservoir, situated just 500 to 1,200 metres (1,640 to 3,937 feet) below the surface.
"Gas rising to the surface through the systems of faults and cracks causes overpressure in the palaeo-permafrost clay layers, and breaks through the weakened parts of it, forming the gas springs and blowout craters," Bogoyavlensky wrote in a 2015 edition of GEO ExPro magazine.
"Basically, after a long period of growth, the upper part of the 'pingo' (the soil covering the ice core) cracks, and the ice core melts, forming a round lake. It is known that sometimes these ice mounds explode under excessive ice pressure."
The good news is that through all of this, there are several research teams out on the tundra studying this weird phenomenon, so hopefully we'll have some definitive answers soon. To reiterate what we said earlier, published research on these bubbles is still forthcoming, and Titovsky in particular says he's not done with his field investigation yet, so we'll have to take these conclusions with a grain of salt until the results are verified.
But the priority right now is for researchers to identify which bubbles pose a threat to the locals, and provide a map highlighting the potential explosion 'hot spots'.
"We need to know which bumps are dangerous and which are not," Titovsky told The Siberian Times.
"Scientists are working on detecting and structuring signs of potential threat, like the maximum height of a bump and pressure that the earth can withstand. Work will continue all through 2017."

* * *

    Phys.org / March 21, 2017
    How fullerite becomes harder than diamond
    Фуллерит - молекулярный кристалл, в узлах решетки которого находятся молекулы фуллерена (форма углерода, атомы в которой образуют многогранник, напоминающий футбольный мяч). Твердость фуллерита зависит от того, как именно связаны между собой фуллерены. Ученые из Технологического института сверхтвердых и новых углеродных материалов, МФТИ, Сколтеха и МИСиС рассчитали, как и при каких условиях фуллерит может приобрести сверхвысокую твердость.
    Статья "Fullerite-based nanocomposites with ultrahigh stiffness. Theoretical investigation" опубликована в журнале Carbon.

Physicists have simulated the structure of a new material based on fullerite and single crystal diamond to show how this material can obtain ultrahigh hardness. This discovery offers potential conditions for obtaining ultrahard materials. The results were published in Carbon.
Fullerite is a molecular crystal with fullerene molecules at its lattice nodes. Fullerene is a spherical molecule of carbon atoms. It was first synthesized over 30 years ago, and its discovery was awarded with the Nobel Prize. Carbon spheres in fullerite may be packed in different ways, and the hardness of the material strongly depends on how the fullerenes are connected to each other. A team of Russian scientists has now explained why fullerite becomes an ultra-hard material.
Alexander Kvashnin, Candidate of Physics and Mathematics, the main author, said, "When we started to discuss this idea, I was working at TISNCM. There, in 1998, a group of scientists headed by Vladimir D. Blank obtained a new material based on fullerenes - ultrahard fullerite, or 'tisnumit.' According to the measurements, this new material could scratch diamond - it was, in fact, harder than diamond."
The substance was not single-crystal material; it contained amorphous carbon and 3-D-polymerized molecules of C60. Still, its crystal structure is not yet completely understood. The fullerene molecule has excellent mechanical rigidity. At the same time, the fullerite crystal is a soft material under normal conditions, but becomes harder than diamond under pressure (due to the 3-D polymerization). Although this material has been synthesized and studied for more than 20 years now, the reason why it becomes ultrahard is still unknown. There is a number of models that have been developed to explain how fullerenes can be polymerized into fullerite.
One of the models was proposed by Prof. Leonid A. Chernozatonskii. The X-ray diffraction pattern of the model perfectly agrees with experimental data, and should have a high volumetric bulk modulus, several times higher than the diamond value. But the relaxed structure of the model does not display such fascinating properties.
Alexander Kvashnin said, "We based our analysis on that model and the experimentally known fact that if you apply more than 10 GPa pressure to fullerene powder and heat it above 1800 K, you obtain a polycrystalline diamond. The idea was to combine these two facts. On the one hand, a super-hard fullerite material, and on the other hand, under pressure, fullerenes turn into a polycrystalline diamond."
The scientists suggested that under pressure, part of the fullerite turned into diamond, while the other part remained as fullerite in a compressed state within the diamond. To simplify the model, the fullerite crystal structure proposed by Prof. Chernozatonskii was placed inside a single crystal diamond. The researchers then studied this composite material. The idea was that fullerite inside diamond should be compressed. It is known that in the compressed state, the elastic and mechanical properties of the material increase. And diamond would act as a shell, keeping the compressed fullerite inside to preserve all those properties. In the study, they first analysed small models containing 2.5 nm fullerite grain inside the 1 nm thick diamond shell. However, such a small model did not comply with the experimental data. Then the researchers started modelling the composites, where the size of fullerite was increased up to 15.8 nm, and the thickness of diamond shell remained the same. The changes in the X-ray diffraction spectrum showed that the increase in the fullerite size brought the spectrum closer to the experimental data. After comparing the spectra, it was assumed that most likely in the experiment, they had obtained an amorphous carbon medium with a hydrostatically compressed fullerite inside, while the model dealt with a diamond with fullerite inside. According to the calculated spectrum, the new model correlated very well with the experimental data.
"The developed model will help us to understand the nature of its unique properties and to systematically synthesize the new ultra-hard carbon materials, as well as to contribute to the further development of this promising field of science," said Pavel Sorokin, head of the project (TISNCM, MISIS, MIPT).
Fullerite itself is not very hard; its bulk modulus is 1.5 times less than that of diamond. But when it's compressed, its bulk modulus increases dramatically. To preserve this enhanced bulk modulus, the fullerite should always remain in such a compressed state. Using the results of simulations, the scientists can conduct targeted experiments to obtain an ultra-hard material.

© Phys.org 2003-2017, Science X network.

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    Science Daily / March 23, 2017
    Giant salamanders, geckos and olms: Vanishing species diversity in Siberia
    Study of the development of amphibians and reptiles through twelve million years of geological history.
    Сейчас фауна Западной Сибири не отличается разнообразием видов земноводных и рептилий, но в прошлом ситуация была совершенно иная. Международная группа ученых (Швейцария, Россия, Германия) изучила происхождение и развитие этих животных за период от среднего миоцена до раннего плейстоцена, идентифицировав по окаменелым останкам более 50 различных видов.

Together with an international team, Senckenberg scientist Professor Dr. Madelaine Böhme studied the development of the amphibian and reptile fauna in Western Siberia during the past twelve million years. In their study, published in the scientific journal Peer J, the scientists demonstrate that the species diversity of both groups of animals was noticeably higher in the past than it is today. Among others, for the first time the researchers discovered an Asiatic representative of the extinct frog family Palaeobatrachidae as well as evidence of a giant salamander with a length of up to 1.80 meters.
The Siberian Salamander, four species of brown frogs (genus Rana), four species of toads, one green frog (genus Pelophylax), two lizards and five species of snakes - these 17 species represent the entire recent amphibian and reptile fauna of Western Siberia, which therefore counts among the regions with the lowest species diversity regarding these animal classes in all of Eurasia and Northern Africa. "But this was not always the case," explains Professor Dr. Madelaine Böhme, director of the Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment (HEP) at the University of Tübingen, who continues, "Our most recent study shows that the number of amphibian and reptile species used to be much higher in the course of geological history."
The international team of scientists around the paleontologist from Tübingen and Dr. Davit Vasilyan of the JURASSICA Museum in Porrentruy examined fossils from more than 40 excavation sites in Western Siberia, spanning the past twelve million years. These fossils were collected during 40 years of research activity by their Russian colleague, Dr. Vladimir Zazhigin. "We were able to identify more than 50 different species - from salamanders and frogs to scaled reptiles and turtles. This exceeded even our boldest expectations," says an elated Böhme. Among the team's findings was evidence of a giant salamander, a group of tailed amphibians with a length of up to 1.80 meters that today are only found in rainy regions of Japan and China. Equally unexpected were voucher specimens of several crocodile newts, whose surviving relatives live in modern-day China and Vietnam.
"In addition, for the first time we were able to discover an Asiatic representative of the extinct frog family Paleobatrachidae," adds Böhme, and she continues, "And we also rediscovered an 'old acquaintance' among the fossils: The Siberian Salamander already inhabited the region beyond the Ural Mountains as early as twelve million years ago." Modern representatives of this amphibian genus have adapted to the hostile climatic conditions and survive temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Celsius frozen in the soil.
The fossil discoveries not only offer insights into the fauna of the past but also allow conclusions regarding climate, precipitation and vegetation. For example, the discovery of a six-million-year-old gecko of the genus Alsophylax indicates that the habitat at that time resembled the modern-day steppes in Kazakhstan. For this time period, during which the Western Siberian plains were also home to jumping mice, camels and ostriches, the team of scientists calculated an annual precipitation of only 250 millimeters. Moreover, the discovery of terrestrial and aquatic turtles, whose last representatives disappeared from Western Siberia around 5 million years ago, suggests a noticeably warmer climate.
"The total of our findings documents Siberia's varied biodiversity and the dynamic climate history of this region: Within a few hundred thousand years, extremely wet regions with four times the current precipitation transformed into areas with an arid steppe climate. The increasingly cooler temperatures likely led to the subsequent loss of numerous species of amphibians and reptiles," adds Böhme in conclusion.

Copyright 2016 ScienceDaily.

* * *

    Nature / 27 March 2017
    Election chaos at Russian Academy of Sciences
    Beleaguered institution cancels presidential election two days before vote, and appoints acting chief.
    • Olga Dobrovidova
    Выборы президента РАН были отменены после того, как все три кандидата отказались от участия буквально в последнюю минуту - без объяснения причин.

Academics at Russia's premier science body have been left shocked and confused after an election that was supposed to determine the new president of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) was cancelled at the last minute.
The three candidates - including incumbent president Vladimir Fortov - pulled out on 20 March, just two days before the election was scheduled to happen. Three days later, the Russian government appointed academy vice-president Valery Kozlov, who had not planned to stand in the election, as acting leader.
The reasons for the candidates' withdrawal remain mysterious. But the events are just the latest upheaval at an organization still grappling to come to terms with reforms that began four years ago.
"No one asking to postpone the election actually said anything specific," says Askold Ivantchik, a historian at the RAS Institute of World History in Moscow and the New York University Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. "Fortov mentioned some procedural complaints - of which we know nothing. His opponents said nothing at all. Their withdrawals were, frankly, unseemly as they gave no arguments."
The RAS, established in 1724, is the umbrella body for Russia's largest network of research institutions. It manages basic research and acts as an authority on science policy. But its past few years have been tumultuous - with a surprise reform announced by the government in 2013.
The reform - aimed at modernizing the academy - began months after Fortov had been elected for his first term. It caused outrage among some scientists because it transferred budget and administrative controls to a new government agency, largely stripping the RAS of its powers.
"Archaic" procedures
Fortov's term as president was due to end on 27 March, and last week's cancelled election would have been the first since the reforms. The RAS has been electing its presidents since 1917. On the first morning of a pre-election conference, the two challengers, biologist Alexander Makarov and physicist Vladislav Panchenko, announced to a room of shocked scientists and journalists that they were dropping out of the race. They gave no reason why.
Fortov, the election favourite endorsed by the academy's governing council, withdrew immediately afterwards, saying that he could not run unopposed.
Some clues to what happened emerged from interviews that Makarov and Panchenko gave to the government-run newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta the day before they withdrew. Makarov called election procedures at the academy "archaic" and "nonsensical". Panchenko mentioned that he and several unnamed RAS members had sent a letter to the governing council asking it to make the election procedure - which "leaves room for manipulation" - more transparent.
The letter was not made public, and neither Makarov nor Panchenko responded to Nature's requests for comment.
Four years after the reforms began, many of the academy's scientists are still fuming. In his election campaign, Fortov himself described the government overhaul as "the most radical and risky for science" in the academy's history, and accused the government of further encroaching on the RAS's autonomy.
Symbolic message
Rumours are rife in Russia's scientific community. Valery Rubakov, a theoretical physicist at the RAS Institute for Nuclear Research in Moscow, called the developments
"extraordinary". He told Nature that "without pressure 'from above', this turn of events would not have been possible".
Rubakov and at least two other members of the academy, physicists Vladimir Zakharov and Gennady Mesyats, suggested that Fortov had had a meeting at the Kremlin on Friday 17 March.
When asked about this allegation at the meeting, Fortov neither confirmed nor denied it. Mesyats, speaking at the election conference, called the events culminating in the election's cancellation a "special operation" against RAS.
Kozlov, a prominent mathematician, oversaw a mid-2000s internal push to reform the RAS that had limited results. He is expected to serve as acting president until a presidential election takes place - which, under the academy's charter, should be no later than 28 September.
Experts agree that turmoil in the academy, which is revered as a historic institution but has held little sway since the reforms, seems unlikely to affect scientists on the ground beyond sending a symbolic message. "This was yet another demonstration of a profound level of disrespect for the scientific community," says Mikhail Gelfand, deputy director of the RAS Institute for Information Transmission Problems in Moscow. "The people doing science in Russia were told, once again, that no one asked for their opinion."

© 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. All Rights Reserved.

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    PR Newswire / Mar 31, 2017
    "Iron" Polymer: Russian Ultra-high-molecular-weight Polyethylene Implant has Successfully Replaced Bone Tissue
    Сотрудники НИТУ «МИСиС», Российского онкологического научного центра РАМН и Государственного завода медицинских препаратов разработали, изучили и успешно испытали импланты губчатой костной ткани на основе сверхвысокомолекулярного полиэтилена. Прижились 100% вживленных образцов.
    Статья "Multilayer porous UHMWPE scaffolds for bone defects replacement" опубликована в журнале Materials Science and Engineering.

A group of Russian scientists have successfully tested the implants of chancellor bones based on ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE): 100% of implanted samples have been successfully grafted.
As previously reported, NUST MISIS scientists, with the help of colleagues from the Russian Cancer Center, named after N.N. Blokhin, as well as the State Plant for Medical Preparations, learned how to create highly precise simulations of bone tissue structures, which presented the opportunity to provide a replacement for bone loss, and to initiate the regeneration process while maintaining the functional capabilities of limbs. An article with the research results was published in the "Materials Science and Engineering" journal.
"The research group was able to examine the structural and mechanical characteristics of the obtained samples both in-vitro and in-vivo during the experiment. The breakthrough fundamental research of NUST MISIS scientists has received practical development thanks to the close cooperation of our University, Russia's leading Cancer Center and the State Plant for Medical Preparations. Particularly, the results of the in-vivo experiments allowed the team to determine the degree of the inner layer's porosity and pore sizes, in which a strong fixation in bone loss by the ingrowth of connective tissue into the implant takes place", commented Alevtina Chernikova, Rector of NUST MISIS.
The partial replacement of bones, destroyed by cancer, injury, or surgery, remains an important medical problem. In Russia alone over 70,000 surgeries to restore the integrity of damaged bone tissue occur annually. There are hundreds of thousands of such operations throughout the world.
Bone tissue possesses a natural ability to regenerate, but in case of large defects the natural ability is often insufficient for complete bone repair. That's why to repair damaged bone tissue various types of implants are used. Materials used for bone implants must have a number of specific properties: to be biologically compatible with the host's body, to possess high mechanical properties, to ensure the complete replacement of the bone loss, and to initiate the processes of bone tissue regeneration.
The ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene is very well suitable for the criteria described above. For example, if we talk about mechanical properties in terms of strength or self-weight, the products from UHMWPE have measurements that exceed steel. That's why potentially the material suits well for the manufacture of porous implants which have the structure to initiate the porous chancellors bone tissue processes most accurately. However, the extremely high molecular weight of polymer doesn't allow for the use of traditional methods of creating a porous structure (typically they are created by foaming).
The problem was solved with the help of a solid-phase mixing method, thermopressure, and rinsing the materials in subcritical water. With such ingenuity, a group of Russian scientists solved the problem of simulating the complex structure of chancellor bones for the first time in the world, and created the multi-layer UHMWPE scaffolds with a solid exterior and porous inner layer.
"Our scaffold consists of two layers, which are connected to each other very firmly. The first layer is solid - it stimulates the cortical bone to ensure the mechanical strength. The inner layer has pores of a certain size, that's why it can be colonized by cells from the recipient to accelerate the fusion with surrounding tissues and to provide a strong fixation of the implant in the defective area", said Fedor Senatov, Candidate of Engineering Sciences, head of the project, and research assistant at the NUST MISIS Center of Composite Materials.
According to the experimentation team, the listed features of scaffolds obtained on the basis of UHMWPE will open great prospects for the creation of bioimplants in rehabilitation medicine, a fact already proved by scientists in a new series of experiments.

Copyright © 2017 PR Newswire Association LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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    EurekAlert / 31-Mar-2017
    Russian Polytechnic University to open Information Center in Spain
    19 апреля Санкт-Петербургский политехнический университет в партнерстве с Мадридским политехническим университетом открывает Информационный центр в Мадриде. Цель - углубление сотрудничества СПбПУ с научными и учебными заведениями Испании и совместное участие в научно-технических проектах.

On April 19, Peter the Great Saint-Petersburg Polytechnic University (SPbPU), one of the leading technical universities in Russia will open the Information Center in Madrid, Spain. The major aim of the University's Information Center is to boost cooperation between SPbPU and scientific and educational institutions of Spain entailing academic exchange of students and teaching staff, as well as joint participation in scientific and technical projects. On April 19 at 9:30 delegation members of SPbPU will have a meeting with the Director of the Universities of the Government of the Madrid Autonomous Region (Dirección General de Universidades e Investigación) Jose Manuel Torralba Castelló dedicated to the Information Center opening and collaboration opportunities.
In the framework of the Information Center opening, from April 19 to 21, the "SPbPU Days in Spain" will be held at the Polytechnic University of Madrid (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, UPM). Scientists and professors of both universities will discuss the most promising areas for scientific cooperation in the field of nanotechnology and telecommunications, computer science, civil engineering and construction.
On April 19, at 16:00, the rectors of SPbPU and UPM will sign a new cooperation agreement indicating intentions of both parties to participate in the student exchange program ERASMUS + (application has already been submitted to the EU), to exchange professors, contribute to Master's programs and Summer schools. An exhibition of Peter the Great Saint-Petersburg Polytechnic University's student art-works will also be opened on April 19 at 16:50 within the frameworks of the "SPbPU Days in Spain".
The Information Center of Peter the Great Saint-Petersburg Polytechnic University will be operating on the basis of the Spanish public foundation "Alexander Pushkin" (Fundación Alexander Pushkin), which has been contributing to the development of friendly and cooperative relations between Russia and Spain for more than 25 years. There anyone can get information about educational programs of SPbPU, its achievements in scientific areas, enrollment for courses and for Summer school modules. It is also expected that the Information Center will become a meeting venue for Russian and Spanish specialists interested in joint participation in scientific, technical and industrial projects. The opening ceremony will be held on April 19 at 18:00 at the Spanish public foundation "Alexander Pushkin", and will be followed by welcome reception at the Royal Academy of Engineering of Spain (April 19 at 19:30) where a number of agreements on cooperation with Spanish universities will be signed.

Copyright © 2017 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

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