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ProgrammableWeb

Facebook Begins Rollout of Data Use Checkup to Facebook Platform Developers

In an effort to further protect user privacy, and given past failures in this area, Facebook has recently simplified the company’s platform terms and developer policies in hopes that this will improve adherence to guidelines. To support these goals Facebook has announced the rollout of Data Use Checkup, an annual process for developers that validates data usage.

This new process, which is supported by a self-service tool, was first announced in April of 2020 and will require developers to use check each application they manage for adherence to company standards. Developers will have 60 days to comply with this standard before losing access to APIs.

The rollout of this program will be gradual and developers will begin to be notified over the next several months. The announcement of the rollout notes that developers will be notified “via a developer alert, an email to the registered contact, and in your Task List within the App Dashboard.” To simplify the process for developers that manage multiple apps, Facebook is allowing batch processing via an interface that facilitates this action, although developers will still be required to check each apps permissions.

Developers can check the App Dashboard to verify if they are able to enroll in the program at this time. 

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Author: <a href="https://www.programmableweb.com/user/%5Buid%5D">KevinSundstrom</a>

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ScienceDaily

Designed antiviral proteins inhibit SARS-CoV-2 in the lab

Computer-designed small proteins have now been shown to protect lab-grown human cells from SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The findings are reported today, Sept. 9, in Science

In the experiments, the lead antiviral candidate, named LCB1, rivaled the best-known SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies in its protective actions. LCB1 is currently being evaluated in rodents.

Coronaviruses are studded with so-called Spike proteins. These latch onto human cells to enable the virus to break in and infect them. The development of drugs that interfere with this entry mechanism could lead to treatment of or even prevention of infection.

Institute for Protein Design researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine used computers to originate new proteins that bind tightly to SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein and obstruct it from infecting cells.

Beginning in January, more than two million candidate Spike-binding proteins were designed on the computer. Over 118,000 were then produced and tested in the lab.

“Although extensive clinical testing is still needed, we believe the best of these computer-generated antivirals are quite promising,” said lead author Longxing Cao, a postdoctoral scholar at the Institute for Protein Design.

“They appear to block SARS-CoV-2 infection at least as well as monoclonal antibodies, but are much easier to produce and far more stable, potentially eliminating the need for refrigeration,” he added.

The researchers created antiviral proteins through two approaches. First, a segment of the ACE2 receptor, which SARS-CoV-2 naturally binds to on the surface of human cells, was incorporated into a series of small protein scaffolds.

Second, completely synthetic proteins were designed from scratch. The latter method produced the most potent antivirals, including LCB1, which is roughly six times more potent on a per mass basis than the most effective monoclonal antibodies reported thus far.

Scientists from the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis collaborated on this work.

“Our success in designing high-affinity antiviral proteins from scratch is further proof that computational protein design can be used to create promising drug candidates,” said senior author and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator David Baker, professor of biochemistry at the UW School of Medicine and head of the Institute for Protein Design. In 2019, Baker gave a TED talk on how protein design might be used to stop viruses.

To confirm that the new antiviral proteins attached to the coronavirus Spike protein as intended, the team collected snapshots of the two molecules interacting by using cryo-electron microscopy. These experiments were performed by researchers in the laboratories of David Veesler, assistant professor of biochemistry at the UW School of Medicine, and Michael S. Diamond, the Herbert S. Gasser Professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

“The hyperstable minibinders provide promising starting points for new SARS-CoV-2 therapeutics,” the antiviral research team wrote in their study pre-print, “and illustrate the power of computational protein design for rapidly generating potential therapeutic candidates against pandemic threats.”

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Materials provided by University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine. Original written by Ian Haydon, Institute for Protein Design. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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ScienceDaily

Engineers use heat-free technology to make metallic replicas of a rose’s surface texture

Nature has worked for eons to perfect surface textures that protect, hide and otherwise help all kinds of creatures survive.

There’s the shiny, light-scattering texture of blue morpho butterfly wings, the rough, drag-reducing texture of shark skin and the sticky, yet water-repelling texture of rose petals.

But how to use those natural textures and properties in the engineered world? Could the water-repelling, ultrahydrophobic texture of a lotus plant somehow be applied to an aircraft wing as an anti-icing device? Previous attempts have involved molding polymers and other soft materials, or etching patterns on hard materials that lacked accuracy and relied on expensive equipment. But what about making inexpensive, molded metallic biostructures?

Iowa State University’s Martin Thuo and the students in his research group have found a way in their pursuit of “frugal science/innovation,” what he describes as “the ability to minimize cost and complexity while providing efficient solutions to better the human conditions.”

For this project, they’re taking their previous development of liquid metal particles and using them to make perfectly molded metallic versions of natural surfaces, including a rose petal. They can do it without heat or pressure, and without damaging a petal.

They describe the technology they’re calling BIOMAP in a paper recently published online by Angewandte Chemie, a journal of the German Chemical Society. Thuo, an associate professor of materials science and engineering with a courtesy appointment in electrical and computer engineering, is the corresponding author. Co-authors are all Iowa State students in materials science and engineering: Julia Chang, Andrew Martin and Chuanshen Du, doctoral students; and Alana Pauls, an undergraduate.

Iowa State supported the project with intellectual property royalties generated by Thuo.

“This project comes from an observation that nature has a lot of beautiful things it does,” Thuo said. “The lotus plant, for example, lives in water but doesn’t get wet. We like those structures, but we’ve only been able to mimic them with soft materials, we wanted to use metal.”

Key to the technology are microscale particles of undercooled liquid metal, originally developed for heat-free soldering. The particles are created when tiny droplets of metal (in this case Field’s metal, an alloy of bismuth, indium and tin), are exposed to oxygen and coated with an oxidation layer, trapping the metal inside in a liquid state, even at room temperature.

The BIOMAP process uses particles of varying sizes, all of them just a few millionths of a meter in diameter. The particles are applied to a surface, covering it and form-fitting all the crevices, gaps and patterns through the autonomous processes of self-filtration, capillary pressure and evaporation.

A chemical trigger joins and solidifies the particles to each other and not to the surface. That allows solid metallic replicas to be lifted off, creating a negative relief of the surface texture. Positive reliefs can be made by using the inverse replica to create a mold and then repeating the BIOMAP process.

“You lift it off, it looks exactly the same,” Thuo said, noting the engineers could identify different cultivars or roses through subtle differences in the metallic replicas of their textures.

Importantly, the replicas kept the physical properties of the surfaces, just like in elastomer-based soft lithography.

“The metal structure maintains those ultrahydrophobic properties — exactly like a lotus plant or a rose petal,” Thuo said. “Put a droplet of water on a metal rose petal, and the droplet sticks, but on a metal lotus leaf it just flows off.”

Those properties could be applied to airplane wings for better de-icing or to improve heat transfer in air conditioning systems, Thuo said.

That’s how a little frugal innovation “can mold the delicate structures of a rose petal into a solid metal structure,” Thuo said. “This is a method that we hope will lead to new approaches of making metallic surfaces that are hydrophobic based on the structure and not the coatings on the metal.”

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ScienceDaily

NBA playoff format is optimizing competitive balance by eliminating travel

In addition to helping protect players from COVID-19, the NBA “bubble” in Orlando may be a competitive equalizer by eliminating team travel. Researchers analyzing the results of nearly 500 NBA playoff games over six seasons found that a team’s direction of travel and the number of time zones crossed were associated with its predicted win probability and actual game performance.

Preliminary results of the study suggest that the 2020 NBA playoffs, which begin Aug. 17, will eliminate any advantages or disadvantages related to long-distance travel. In this year’s unique playoff format, implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all 16 teams will stay in Orlando, Florida, and compete at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Walt Disney World.

The study found that scoring was significantly higher following eastward travel. Although there were no differences in actual game outcomes based on overall direction of travel, there were differences when considering both the direction and magnitude of travel. Teams that traveled east with three-hour time zone changes had higher predicted probabilities of winning than teams that traveled west or played in the same time zone. In contrast, teams that traveled west across three time zones had lower predicted win probabilities than teams that traveled east or played in the same time zone.

“During this initial study, it was interesting to find that team scoring improved during general eastward travel compared to westward travel and travel in the same zone, but game outcomes were unaffected by direction of travel during the playoffs,” said lead author Sean Pradhan, assistant professor of sports management and business analytics in the School of Business Administration at Menlo College in Atherton, California. “However, when considering the magnitude of travel across different time zones, we found that teams had predicted probabilities of winning that were lower after traveling three time zones westward, and tended to actually lose more games when traveling two time zones westward compared to most other types of travel.”

Circadian rhythms are endogenous, near-24-hour biological rhythms that exist in all living organisms, and these daily rhythms have peaks and troughs in both alertness and sleepiness that can impact individuals in high-performance professions. Therefore, an athlete has a greater opportunity for optimal performance when the timing of an activity is synchronized with the body’s circadian clock.

Researchers from Menlo College and other collaborators reviewed data from 499 NBA playoff games from the 2013-2014 through 2018-2019 seasons. They looked at the impact of direction of travel and time zones traveled on actual game outcomes, team quality, predicted win probability, and team scoring for visiting teams.

“A great deal of prior work has examined the effects of travel and circadian advantages on team performance during the regular season of various professional sports leagues,” said Pradhan. “The current study extends such findings of previous research by examining team performance in the NBA playoffs, which is obviously an extremely crucial time for teams competing.”

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Materials provided by American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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Hackster.io

Robot Voice (and UNDP Covid Challenge Awards)

Tune in on August 12 for the UNDP COVID-19 Detect & Protect Challenge finale (bit.ly/2Dm1xy8)! Alex will be hosting, assisted by Archimedes, her AI owl companion bot. Here’s how she’s making him sound his very best.

// https://www.hackster.io/contests/UNDPCOVID19
// https://wiki.dfrobot.com/DFPlayer_Mini_SKU_DFR0299
// https://ttsmp3.com/
// https://www.dfrobot.com/product-1121.html
// https://twitter.com/Hacksterio

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ScienceDaily

Why are plants green?

When sunlight shining on a leaf changes rapidly, plants must protect themselves from the ensuing sudden surges of solar energy. To cope with these changes, photosynthetic organisms — from plants to bacteria — have developed numerous tactics. Scientists have been unable, however, to identify the underlying design principle.

An international team of scientists, led by physicist Nathaniel M. Gabor at the University of California, Riverside, has now constructed a model that reproduces a general feature of photosynthetic light harvesting, observed across many photosynthetic organisms.

Light harvesting is the collection of solar energy by protein-bound chlorophyll molecules. In photosynthesis — the process by which green plants and some other organisms use sunlight to synthesize foods from carbon dioxide and water — light energy harvesting begins with sunlight absorption.

The researchers’ model borrows ideas from the science of complex networks, a field of study that explores efficient operation in cellphone networks, brains, and the power grid. The model describes a simple network that is able to input light of two different colors, yet output a steady rate of solar power. This unusual choice of only two inputs has remarkable consequences.

“Our model shows that by absorbing only very specific colors of light, photosynthetic organisms may automatically protect themselves against sudden changes — or ‘noise’ — in solar energy, resulting in remarkably efficient power conversion,” said Gabor, an associate professor of physics and astronomy, who led the study appearing today in the journal Science. “Green plants appear green and purple bacteria appear purple because only specific regions of the spectrum from which they absorb are suited for protection against rapidly changing solar energy.”

Gabor first began thinking about photosynthesis research more than a decade ago, when he was a doctoral student at Cornell University. He wondered why plants rejected green light, the most intense solar light. Over the years, he worked with physicists and biologists worldwide to learn more about statistical methods and the quantum biology of photosynthesis.

Richard Cogdell, a botanist at the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom and a coauthor on the research paper, encouraged Gabor to extend the model to include a wider range of photosynthetic organisms that grow in environments where the incident solar spectrum is very different.

“Excitingly, we were then able to show that the model worked in other photosynthetic organisms besides green plants, and that the model identified a general and fundamental property of photosynthetic light harvesting,” he said. “Our study shows how, by choosing where you absorb solar energy in relation to the incident solar spectrum, you can minimize the noise on the output — information that can be used to enhance the performance of solar cells.”

Coauthor Rienk van Grondelle, an influential experimental physicist at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands who works on the primary physical processes of photosynthesis, said the team found the absorption spectra of certain photosynthetic systems select certain spectral excitation regions that cancel the noise and maximize the energy stored.

“This very simple design principle could also be applied in the design of human-made solar cells,” said van Grondelle, who has vast experience with photosynthetic light harvesting.

Gabor explained that plants and other photosynthetic organisms have a wide variety of tactics to prevent damage due to overexposure to the sun, ranging from molecular mechanisms of energy release to physical movement of the leaf to track the sun. Plants have even developed effective protection against UV light, just as in sunscreen.

“In the complex process of photosynthesis, it is clear that protecting the organism from overexposure is the driving factor in successful energy production, and this is the inspiration we used to develop our model,” he said. “Our model incorporates relatively simple physics, yet it is consistent with a vast set of observations in biology. This is remarkably rare. If our model holds up to continued experiments, we may find even more agreement between theory and observations, giving rich insight into the inner workings of nature.”

To construct the model, Gabor and his colleagues applied straightforward physics of networks to the complex details of biology, and were able to make clear, quantitative, and generic statements about highly diverse photosynthetic organisms.

“Our model is the first hypothesis-driven explanation for why plants are green, and we give a roadmap to test the model through more detailed experiments,” Gabor said.

Photosynthesis may be thought of as a kitchen sink, Gabor added, where a faucet flows water in and a drain allows the water to flow out. If the flow into the sink is much bigger than the outward flow, the sink overflows and the water spills all over the floor.

“In photosynthesis, if the flow of solar power into the light harvesting network is significantly larger than the flow out, the photosynthetic network must adapt to reduce the sudden over-flow of energy,” he said. “When the network fails to manage these fluctuations, the organism attempts to expel the extra energy. In doing so, the organism undergoes oxidative stress, which damages cells.”

The researchers were surprised by how general and simple their model is.

“Nature will always surprise you,” Gabor said. “Something that seems so complicated and complex might operate based on a few basic rules. We applied the model to organisms in different photosynthetic niches and continue to reproduce accurate absorption spectra. In biology, there are exceptions to every rule, so much so that finding a rule is usually very difficult. Surprisingly, we seem to have found one of the rules of photosynthetic life.”

Gabor noted that over the last several decades, photosynthesis research has focused mainly on the structure and function of the microscopic components of the photosynthetic process.

“Biologists know well that biological systems are not generally finely tuned given the fact that organisms have little control over their external conditions,” he said. “This contradiction has so far been unaddressed because no model exists that connects microscopic processes with macroscopic properties. Our work represents the first quantitative physical model that tackles this contradiction.”

Next, supported by several recent grants, the researchers will design a novel microscopy technique to test their ideas and advance the technology of photo-biology experiments using quantum optics tools.

“There’s a lot out there to understand about nature, and it only looks more beautiful as we unravel its mysteries,” Gabor said.

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Egg-based coating preserves fresh produce

Eggs that would otherwise be wasted can be used as the base of an inexpensive coating to protect fruits and vegetables, according to Rice University researchers.

The Brown School of Engineering lab of materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan and colleagues have developed a micron-thick coating that solves problems both for the produce and its consumers, as well as for the environment.

When the coating was applied to produce by spraying or dipping, it showed a remarkable ability to resist rotting for an extended period comparable to standard coatings like wax but without some of the inherent problems.

The work by Rice undergraduate students Seohui (Sylvia) Jung and Yufei (Nancy) Cui is detailed in Advanced Materials.

The coating relies on eggs that never reach the market. As the United States produces more than 7 billion eggs a year and manufacturers reject 3% of them, the researchers estimate more than 200 million eggs end up in landfills.

Even before the impact of the new coronavirus, the world wasted a third of the food produced around the globe, the researchers wrote.

“Reducing food shortages in ways that don’t involve genetic modification, inedible coatings or chemical additives is important for sustainable living,” Ajayan said. “The work is a remarkable combination of interdisciplinary efforts involving materials engineers, chemists and biotechnologists from multiple universities across the U.S.”

Along with being edible, the multifunctional coating retards dehydration, provides antimicrobial protection and is largely impermeable both to water vapor to retard dehydration and to gas to prevent premature ripening. The coating is all-natural and washes off with water.

“If anyone is sensitive to the coating or has an egg allergy, they can easily eliminate it,” Jung said.

Egg whites (aka albumen) and yolks account for nearly 70 percent of the coating. Most of the rest consists of nanoscale cellulose extracted from wood, which serves as a barrier to water and keeps produce from shriveling, a small amount of curcumin for its antimicrobial powers and a splash of glycerol to add elasticity.

Lab tests on dip-coated strawberries, avocadoes, bananas and other fruit showed they maintained their freshness far longer than uncoated produce. Compression tests showed coated fruit were significantly stiffer and more firm than uncoated and demonstrated the coating’s ability to keep water in the produce, slowing the ripening process.

An analysis of freestanding films of the coating showed it to be extremely flexible and able to resist cracking, allowing better protection of the produce. Tests of the film’s tensile properties showed it to be just as tough as other products, including synthetic films used in produce packaging. Further tests proved the coating to be nontoxic, and solubility tests showed a thicker-than-usual film is washable.

Rinsing in water for a couple of minutes can completely disintegrate it, Ajayan said.

The researchers continue to refine the coating’s composition and are considering other source materials. “We chose egg proteins because there are lots of eggs wasted, but it doesn’t mean we can’t use others,” said co-corresponding author Muhammad Rahman, a research scientist in Ajayan’s Rice lab, who mentored and led the team.

Jung noted the team is testing proteins that could be extracted from plants rather than animal produce to make coatings.

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Materials provided by Rice University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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