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Article
A Decision Support System for Face Sketch Synthesis Using Deep Learning and Artificial Intelligence
by , , , and
Sensors 2021, 21(24), 8178; https://doi.org/10.3390/s21248178 (registering DOI) - 08 Dec 2021
Abstract
The recent development in the area of IoT technologies is likely to be implemented extensively in the next decade. There is a great increase in the crime rate, and the handling officers are responsible for dealing with a broad range of cyber and [...] Read more.
The recent development in the area of IoT technologies is likely to be implemented extensively in the next decade. There is a great increase in the crime rate, and the handling officers are responsible for dealing with a broad range of cyber and Internet issues during investigation. IoT technologies are helpful in the identification of suspects, and few technologies are available that use IoT and deep learning together for face sketch synthesis. Convolutional neural networks (CNNs) and other constructs of deep learning have become major tools in recent approaches. A new-found architecture of the neural network is anticipated in this work. It is called Spiral-Net, which is a modified version of U-Net fto perform face sketch synthesis (the phase is known as the compiler network C here). Spiral-Net performs in combination with a pre-trained Vgg-19 network called the feature extractor F. It first identifies the top n matches from viewed sketches to a given photo. F is again used to formulate a feature map based on the cosine distance of a candidate sketch formed by C from the top n matches. A customized CNN configuration (called the discriminator D) then computes loss functions based on differences between the candidate sketch and the feature. Values of these loss functions alternately update C and F. The ensemble of these nets is trained and tested on selected datasets, including CUFS, CUFSF, and a part of the IIT photo–sketch dataset. Results of this modified U-Net are acquired by the legacy NLDA (1998) scheme of face recognition and its newer version, OpenBR (2013), which demonstrate an improvement of 5% compared with the current state of the art in its relevant domain. Full article
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Article
Determination of Median Lethal Concentration (LC50) for Endosulfan, Heptachlor and Dieldrin Pesticides to African Catfish, Clarias gariepinus and Their Impact on Its Behavioral Patterns and Histopathological Responses
by , , , , and
Toxics 2021, 9(12), 340; https://doi.org/10.3390/toxics9120340 (registering DOI) - 08 Dec 2021
Abstract
Pesticides such as endosulfan, heptachlor and dieldrin persist in aquatic environments as a result of their resistance to biodegradation. However, there is no adequate information about the toxicity of endosulfan, heptachlor and dieldrin to the aquatic organism, African catfish (Clarias gariepinus)—a [...] Read more.
Pesticides such as endosulfan, heptachlor and dieldrin persist in aquatic environments as a result of their resistance to biodegradation. However, there is no adequate information about the toxicity of endosulfan, heptachlor and dieldrin to the aquatic organism, African catfish (Clarias gariepinus)—a high valued widely distributed commercially interesting species. The current experiment was performed with the aim to determine the median lethal concentration (LC50) of endosulfan, heptachlor and dieldrin to African catfish (Clarias gariepinus); their behavioral abnormalities and histopathological alterations in several vital organs. A total of 324 juvenile fish were exposed for 96 h to six concentrations of endosulfan and dieldrin at 0, 0.001, 0.002, 0.004, 0.008 and 0.016 ppm, and to heptachlor at concentrations of 0, 0.02, 0.04, 0.08, 0.16 and 0.32 ppm for dose-response tests. The study demonstrated that the species is highly susceptible to those contaminants showing a number of behavioral abnormalities and histopathological changes in gill, liver and muscle. The 96-h LC50 value of endosulfan, dieldrin and heptachlor for the African catfish was found as 0.004 (0.001−0.01) mg/L, 0.006 mg/L and 0.056 (0.006−0.144) mg/L, respectively. Abnormal behaviors such as erratic jerky swimming, frequent surfacing movement with gulping of air, secretion of mucus on the body and gills were observed in response to the increasing exposure concentrations. Histopathological alterations of liver, gill and muscle tissues were demonstrated as vacuolization in hepatocytes, congestion of red blood cells (RBCs) in hepatic portal vein; deformed secondary lamellae and disintegrated myotomes with disintegrated epidermis, respectively. These findings are important to monitor and responsibly manage pesticide use in and around C. gariepinus aquacultural areas. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Toxicity of Contaminants on Aquatic Organisms)
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Article
Direct Plasmonic Solar Cell Efficiency Dependence on Spiro-OMeTAD Li-TFSI Content
by , , , , and
Nanomaterials 2021, 11(12), 3329; https://doi.org/10.3390/nano11123329 (registering DOI) - 08 Dec 2021
Abstract
The proliferation of the internet of things (IoT) and other low-power devices demands the development of energy harvesting solutions to alleviate IoT hardware dependence on single-use batteries, making their deployment more sustainable. The propagation of energy harvesting solutions is strongly associated with technical [...] Read more.
The proliferation of the internet of things (IoT) and other low-power devices demands the development of energy harvesting solutions to alleviate IoT hardware dependence on single-use batteries, making their deployment more sustainable. The propagation of energy harvesting solutions is strongly associated with technical performance, cost and aesthetics, with the latter often being the driver of adoption. The general abundance of light in the vicinity of IoT devices under their main operation window enables the use of indoor and outdoor photovoltaics as energy harvesters. From those, highly transparent solar cells allow an increased possibility to place a sustainable power source close to the sensors without significant visual appearance. Herein, we report the effect of hole transport layer Li-TFSI dopant content on semi-transparent, direct plasmonic solar cells (DPSC) with a transparency of more than 80% in the 450–800 nm region. The findings revealed that the amount of oxidized spiro-OMeTAD (spiro+TFSI) significantly modulates the transparency, effective conductance and conditions of device performance, with an optimal performance reached at around 33% relative concentration of Li-TFSI concerning spiro-OMeTAD. The Li-TFSI content did not affect the immediate charge extraction, as revealed by an analysis of electron–phonon lifetime. Hot electrons and holes were injected into the respective layers within 150 fs, suggesting simultaneous injection, as supported by the absence of hysteresis in the I–V curves. The spiro-OMeTAD layer reduces the Au nanoparticles’ reflection/backscattering, which improves the overall cell transparency. The results show that the system can be made highly transparent by precise tuning of the doping level of the spiro-OMeTAD layer with retained plasmonics, large optical cross-sections and the ultrathin nature of the devices. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nanostructured Materials for Photonics and Plasmonics)
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Article
QSPR Models for the Molar Refraction, Polarizability and Refractive Index of Aliphatic Carboxylic Acids Using the ZEP Topological Index
by
Symmetry 2021, 13(12), 2359; https://doi.org/10.3390/sym13122359 (registering DOI) - 08 Dec 2021
Abstract
The molar refraction, polarizability, and refractive index for a series of monocarboxylic, dicarboxylic, and unsaturated monocarboxylic acids, having a symmetric or asymmetric structure, were investigated by the application of quantitative structure property relationship (QSPR) technique. We used a linear regression method and a [...] Read more.
The molar refraction, polarizability, and refractive index for a series of monocarboxylic, dicarboxylic, and unsaturated monocarboxylic acids, having a symmetric or asymmetric structure, were investigated by the application of quantitative structure property relationship (QSPR) technique. We used a linear regression method and a single molecular descriptor, the ZEP topological index, calculated in a simple manner, with the help of weighted electronic distances, and also calculated on the basis of the chemical structure of the molecules. The high-quality performance and predictive ability of the QSPR models obtained were validated by means of specific validation techniques: y-randomization test, the leave-one-out cross validation procedure, and external validation. The investigated properties are well modeled (with r2 > 0.99) by the ZEP index, using the regression analysis as a statistical tool for developing reliable QSPR models. Our approach provides an alternative technique to the existing additive methods for predicting the molar refraction and polarizability of carboxylic acids, which is essentially based on the summation of atom and/or functional group contributions or bond contributions, and of some correction increments. Full article
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Article
New Intrinsically Thermostable Xylanase Improves Broilers’ Growth Performance, Organ Weights, and Affects Intestinal Viscosity and pH
by , , , , , , , , , , and
Agriculture 2021, 11(12), 1235; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11121235 (registering DOI) - 08 Dec 2021
Abstract
Exogenous carbohydrases are commonly added to monogastric animal feed to degrade non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) to improve zootechnical performance and nutrient digestion. In the current study, the effects of dietary supplementation of a new, intrinsically thermostable, monocomponent xylanase on intestinal parameters, zootechnical performance and [...] Read more.
Exogenous carbohydrases are commonly added to monogastric animal feed to degrade non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) to improve zootechnical performance and nutrient digestion. In the current study, the effects of dietary supplementation of a new, intrinsically thermostable, monocomponent xylanase on intestinal parameters, zootechnical performance and carcass traits of broilers were evaluated. A total of 720 1-day-old broilers were randomly allotted to four wheat-based diets with different levels of xylanase (T1: control; T2: 30,000 U/g; T3: 45,000 U/g; T4: 90,000 U/g) and fed from 1 to 35 days of age. The data showed that xylanase supplementation reduced the intestinal viscosity significantly, especially in the ileum. Duodenum and cecum pH was not influenced by xylanase supplementation, while T3 treatment showed the lowest pH value in jejunum and ileum. Xylanase supplementation reduced significantly feed conversion ratio (FCR) without affecting feed intake (FI). T2 treatment exhibited a higher body weight gain (BWG) compared the other treatments. Live weight, carcass weight, legs, and liver weight were significantly higher in T3 and T4 treatments compared to T1. No significant differences on foot pad lesions were observed among the four treatments. In conclusion, dietary supplementation of this new xylanase significantly improves intestinal tract viscosity and affects beneficially broilers’ performance and carcass traits. Full article
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Article
Mouse Organ-Specific Proteins and Functions
by , , , , , , , , , , , and
Cells 2021, 10(12), 3449; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells10123449 (registering DOI) - 08 Dec 2021
Abstract
Organ-specific proteins (OSPs) possess great medical potential both in clinics and in biomedical research. Applications of them—such as alanine transaminase, aspartate transaminase, and troponins—in clinics have raised certain concerns of their organ specificity. The dynamics and diversity of protein expression in heterogeneous human [...] Read more.
Organ-specific proteins (OSPs) possess great medical potential both in clinics and in biomedical research. Applications of them—such as alanine transaminase, aspartate transaminase, and troponins—in clinics have raised certain concerns of their organ specificity. The dynamics and diversity of protein expression in heterogeneous human populations are well known, yet their effects on OSPs are less addressed. Here, we used mice as a model and implemented a breadth study to examine the panorgan proteome for potential variations in organ specificity in different genetic backgrounds. Using reasonable resources, we generated panorgan proteomes of four in-bred mouse strains. The results revealed a large diversity that was more profound among OSPs than among proteomes overall. We defined a robustness score to quantify such variation and derived three sets of OSPs with different stringencies. In the meantime, we found that the enriched biological functions of OSPs are also organ-specific and are sensitive and useful to assess the quality of OSPs. We hope our breadth study can open doors to explore the molecular diversity and dynamics of organ specificity at the protein level. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Deciphering the Proteome in Cell Biology and Diseases)
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Article
Cnoidal Wave-Induced Residual Liquefaction in Loosely Deposited Seabed under Coastal Shallow Water
by , and
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11(24), 11631; https://doi.org/10.3390/app112411631 (registering DOI) - 08 Dec 2021
Abstract
This study is aimed at numerically investigating the cnoidal wave-induced dynamics characteristics and the liquefaction process in a loosely deposited seabed floor in a shallow water environment. To achieve this goal, the integrated model FSSI-CAS 2D is taken as the computational platform, and [...] Read more.
This study is aimed at numerically investigating the cnoidal wave-induced dynamics characteristics and the liquefaction process in a loosely deposited seabed floor in a shallow water environment. To achieve this goal, the integrated model FSSI-CAS 2D is taken as the computational platform, and the advanced soil model Pastor–Zienkiewicz Mark III is utilized to describe the complicated mechanical behavior of loose seabed soil. The computational results show that a significant lateral spreading and vertical subsidence could be observed in the loosely deposited seabed floor due to the gradual loss of soil skeleton stiffness caused by the accumulation of pore pressure. The accumulation of pore pressure in the loose seabed is not infinite but limited by the liquefaction resistance line. The seabed soil at some locations could be reached to the full liquefaction state, becoming a type of heavy fluid with great viscosity. Residual liquefaction is a progressive process that is initiated at the upper part of the seabed floor and then enlarges downward. For waves with great height in shallow water, the depth of the liquefaction zone will be greatly overestimated if the Stokes wave theory is used. This study can enhance the understanding of the characteristics of the liquefaction process in a loosely deposited seabed under coastal shallow water and provide a reference for engineering activities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Marine Geotechnics and Marine Engineering Geology)
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Review
COVID-19 and Venous Thromboembolism: From Pathological Mechanisms to Clinical Management
by , and
J. Pers. Med. 2021, 11(12), 1328; https://doi.org/10.3390/jpm11121328 (registering DOI) - 08 Dec 2021
Abstract
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which is becoming a global pandemic, is caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection. In COVID-19, thrombotic events occur frequently, mainly venous thromboembolism (VTE), which is closely related to disease severity and clinical prognosis. Compared with historical controls, the occurrence of VTE [...] Read more.
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which is becoming a global pandemic, is caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection. In COVID-19, thrombotic events occur frequently, mainly venous thromboembolism (VTE), which is closely related to disease severity and clinical prognosis. Compared with historical controls, the occurrence of VTE in hospitalized and critical COVID-19 patients is incredibly high. However, the pathophysiology of thrombosis and the best strategies for thrombosis prevention in COVID-19 remain unclear, thus needing further exploration. Virchow’s triad elements have been proposed as important risk factors for thrombotic diseases. Therefore, the three factors outlined by Virchow can also be applied to the formation of venous thrombosis in the COVID-19 setting. A thorough understanding of the complex interactions in these processes is important in the search for effective treatments for COVID-19. In this work, we focus on the pathological mechanisms of VTE in COVID-19 from the aspects of endothelial dysfunction, hypercoagulability, abnormal blood flow. We also discuss the treatment of VTE as well as the ongoing clinical trials of heparin anticoagulant therapy. In addition, according to the pathophysiological mechanism of COVID-19-associated thrombosis, we extended the range of antithrombotic drugs including antiplatelet drugs, antifibrinolytic drugs, and anti-inflammatory drugs, hoping to find effective drug therapy and improve the prognosis of VTE in COVID-19 patients. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Personalized Medicine and Management of COVID-19)
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Article
Knowledge, Attitudes, and Screening for Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Diabetes Mellitus among War Veterans Seeking Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
by , , , , , and
Healthcare 2021, 9(12), 1698; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9121698 (registering DOI) - 08 Dec 2021
Abstract
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the most common psychiatric disorders. However, we should not neglect the somatic aspects of PTSD. Associations with cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are particularly concerning because PTSD was associated with an even 53% higher risk for CVD. This [...] Read more.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the most common psychiatric disorders. However, we should not neglect the somatic aspects of PTSD. Associations with cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are particularly concerning because PTSD was associated with an even 53% higher risk for CVD. This study aimed to analyze the prevalence of several CVD risk factors, especially diabetes mellitus among PTSD patients divided into three groups according to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) risk stratification (low, intermediate, and high). This cross-sectional study included one hundred male PTSD veterans. The mean age was 53 (40–67) years. The estimated OSA risk was 95% for the whole cohort, and 53% were in the high-risk group. Median HbA1c was 5.6 (4.6–10)%. The hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels showed that 34 patients were in the prediabetes group, and 20 of them fulfilled the criteria for diabetes. However, only 13 of them were aware of their previous diagnosis of diabetes mellitus. In testing knowledge about diabetes, 62% and only 23% of patients knew the correct definition of HbA1c and level of fasting plasma glucose, respectively. Diabetic patients had insufficient knowledge about diabetic complications and treatment. A higher level of PTSD symptoms in veterans was associated with a higher prevalence of OSA. The results strongly support further research and education into early detection of CVD risk factors associated with PTSD. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mental Health Related to Traumatic and Adverse Experiences)
Article
The Effects of Graphene on the Biocompatibility of a 3D-Printed Porous Titanium Alloy
by , , and
Coatings 2021, 11(12), 1509; https://doi.org/10.3390/coatings11121509 (registering DOI) - 08 Dec 2021
Abstract
3D-printed titanium (Ti) materials have attracted much attention in the field of bone tissue repair. However, the combination strength of traditional alloy materials with bone tissue is lower, and the elastic modulus is higher than that of natural bone tissue, which makes the [...] Read more.
3D-printed titanium (Ti) materials have attracted much attention in the field of bone tissue repair. However, the combination strength of traditional alloy materials with bone tissue is lower, and the elastic modulus is higher than that of natural bone tissue, which makes the titanium alloy susceptible to stress shielding phenomena after implantation. Therefore, it is urgent to find better surface modification technology. In this study, the physical and chemical properties, toxicity, and proliferation of adipose stem cells of composite graphene-coated titanium alloy (Gr–Ti) were investigated using 3D-printed titanium alloy as a material model. Physical and chemical property tests confirmed that 3D printing could produce porous titanium alloy materials; the compressive strength and elastic modulus of the titanium alloy scaffolds were 91 ± 3 MPa and 3.1 ± 0.4 GPa, matching the elastic modulus of normal bone tissue. The surface characterization shows that graphene can be coated on titanium alloy by a micro-arc oxidation process, which significantly improves the surface roughness of titanium alloy. The roughness factor (Ra) of the Ti stent was 4.95 ± 1.12 μm, while the Ra of the Gr–Ti stent was 6.37 ± 0.72 μm. After the adipose stem cells were co-cultured with the scaffold for 4 h and 24 h, it was found that the Gr–Ti scaffold could better promote the early cell adhesion. CCK-8 tests showed that the number of ADSCs on the G–Ti scaffold was significantly higher than that on the Ti scaffold (p < 0.01). The relative growth rate (RGR) of ADSCs in Gr–Ti was grade 0–1 (non-toxic). In the in vivo experiment of repairing a critical bone defect of a rabbit mandible, the bone volume fraction in the Gr–Ti group increased to 49.42 ± 3.28%, which was much higher than that in the Ti group (39.76 ± 3.62%) (p < 0.05). In conclusion, the porous graphene–titanium alloy promotes the proliferation and adhesion of adipose stem cells with multidirectional differentiation potential, which has great potential for the application of bone tissue engineering in repairing bone defects in the future. Full article
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Article
Oyster Hydrolysates Attenuate Muscle Atrophy via Regulating Protein Turnover and Mitochondria Biogenesis in C2C12 Cell and Immobilized Mice
by and
Nutrients 2021, 13(12), 4385; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13124385 (registering DOI) - 08 Dec 2021
Abstract
Sarcopenia, also known as skeletal muscle atrophy, is characterized by significant loss of muscle mass and strength. Oyster (Crassostrea gigas) hydrolysates have anti-cancer, antioxidant, and anti-inflammation properties. However, the anti-sarcopenic effect of oyster hydrolysates remains uninvestigated. Therefore, we prepared two different oyster hydrolysates, [...] Read more.
Sarcopenia, also known as skeletal muscle atrophy, is characterized by significant loss of muscle mass and strength. Oyster (Crassostrea gigas) hydrolysates have anti-cancer, antioxidant, and anti-inflammation properties. However, the anti-sarcopenic effect of oyster hydrolysates remains uninvestigated. Therefore, we prepared two different oyster hydrolysates, namely TGPN and PNY. This study aimed to determine the anti-muscle atrophy efficacy and molecular mechanisms of TGPN and PNY on both C2C12 cell lines and mice. In vitro, the TGPN and PNY recovered the dexamethasone-induced reduction in the myotube diameters. In vivo, TGPN and PNY administration not only improved grip strength and exercise endurance, but also attenuated the loss of muscle mass and muscle fiber cross-sectional area. Mechanistically, TGPN and PNY increased the expression of protein synthesis-related protein levels via phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/protein kinase B (Akt)/mammalian target of the rapamycin pathway, and reduced the expression of protein degradation-related protein levels via the PI3K/Akt/forkhead box O pathway. Also, TGPN and PNY stimulated NAD-dependent deacetylase sirtuin-1(SIRT1), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator-1 alpha (PGC-1α), nuclear respiratory factor 1,2, mitochondrial transcription factor A, along with mitochondrial DNA content via SIRT1/PGC-1α signaling. These findings suggest oyster hydrolysates could be used as a valuable natural material that inhibits skeletal muscle atrophy via regulating protein turnover and mitochondrial biogenesis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nutrition and Regulation of Muscle Protein Synthesis)
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Article
Overmolding of Hybrid Long and Short Carbon Fiber Polypropylene Composite: Optimizing Processing Parameters
by , and
J. Manuf. Mater. Process. 2021, 5(4), 132; https://doi.org/10.3390/jmmp5040132 (registering DOI) - 08 Dec 2021
Abstract
Injection overmolding was used to produce hybrid unidirectional continuous-short carbon fiber reinforced polypropylene. Polypropylene pellets containing short carbon fibers were melted and overmolded on unidirectional carbon fibers, which act as the core of the composite structure. Four factors were varied in this study: [...] Read more.
Injection overmolding was used to produce hybrid unidirectional continuous-short carbon fiber reinforced polypropylene. Polypropylene pellets containing short carbon fibers were melted and overmolded on unidirectional carbon fibers, which act as the core of the composite structure. Four factors were varied in this study: fiber pretension applied to unidirectional fibers, injection pressure, melting temperature, and backpressure used for melting and injecting the composite pellet. This study aimed to evaluate the effect of these factors on fiber volume fraction, flexural strength, and impact strength of the hybrid composite. The relationship between factors and responses was analyzed using Box–Behnken Response Surface Methodology (RSM) and analysis of variance (ANOVA). Each aspect was divided into three levels. There were 27 experimental runs carried out, with three replicated center points. The results showed that the injection molding process parameters had no significant effect on the fiber’s volume fraction. On the other hand, melting temperature and fiber pretension significantly affected impact strength and flexural strength. Full article
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Article
Risk-Profile and Feature Selection Comparison in Diabetic Retinopathy
by , , , , , , , and
J. Pers. Med. 2021, 11(12), 1327; https://doi.org/10.3390/jpm11121327 (registering DOI) - 08 Dec 2021
Abstract
One of the main microvascular complications presented in the Mexican population is diabetic retinopathy which affects 27.50% of individuals with type 2 diabetes. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to construct a predictive model to find out the risk factors of this [...] Read more.
One of the main microvascular complications presented in the Mexican population is diabetic retinopathy which affects 27.50% of individuals with type 2 diabetes. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to construct a predictive model to find out the risk factors of this complication. The dataset contained a total of 298 subjects, including clinical and paraclinical features. An analysis was constructed using machine learning techniques including Boruta as a feature selection method, and random forest as classification algorithm. The model was evaluated through a statistical test based on sensitivity, specificity, area under the curve (AUC), and receiving operating characteristic (ROC) curve. The results present significant values obtained by the model obtaining 69% of AUC. Moreover, a risk evaluation was incorporated to evaluate the impact of the predictors. The proposed method identifies creatinine, lipid treatment, glomerular filtration rate, waist hip ratio, total cholesterol, and high density lipoprotein as risk factors in Mexican subjects. The odds ratio increases by 3.5916 times for control patients which have high levels of cholesterol. It is possible to conclude that this proposed methodology is a preliminary computer-aided diagnosis tool for clinical decision-helping to identify the diagnosis of DR. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systems Medicine and Bioinformatics)
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Article
Does the Exchange Rate and Its Volatility Matter for International Trade in Ethiopia?
by , , , and
J. Risk Financial Manag. 2021, 14(12), 591; https://doi.org/10.3390/jrfm14120591 (registering DOI) - 08 Dec 2021
Abstract
This study was carried out to investigate the impact of the Ethiopian exchange rate and its volatility on international trade. Trade openness was used as a proxy for international trade in the study. The study’s general objective was to investigate how international trade [...] Read more.
This study was carried out to investigate the impact of the Ethiopian exchange rate and its volatility on international trade. Trade openness was used as a proxy for international trade in the study. The study’s general objective was to investigate how international trade responds to exchange rate levels and volatility. The study relied solely on secondary time-series data spanning the years 1992 to 2019. The Autoregressive Distributive Lag (ARDL) model was used in the study to investigate the long-term relationship between exchange rate level, volatility, and international trade performance. An error correction model was used to estimate the variables in the short term. To conduct the regression analysis, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and inflation were used as control variables. The finding of the study implies that: in the short term, the exchange rate level was found to negatively and significantly influence international trade. However, exchange rate volatility positively and significantly affects international trade both in the short and in the long term. In addition, gross domestic product, foreign direct investment, and inflation have a positive effect on international trade both in the short term and long term. This finding lends support to the J-curve effects, which suggest an initial loss in the short term followed by a dramatic gain in the long term. However, the findings of this study suggest that there is no significant gain from international trade to justify currency depreciation in Ethiopia. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue International Trade Theory and Policy)
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Article
Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices towards Diabetic Retinopathy among Primary Care Physicians of Saudi Arabia: A Multicenter Cross-Sectional Study
by , , , , , , , and
Healthcare 2021, 9(12), 1697; https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9121697 (registering DOI) - 08 Dec 2021
Abstract
Primary care physicians play a vital role in preventing the progression of diabetic retinopathy (DR) from the initial stages to the late stages. This questionnaire-based analytical cross-sectional study was carried out to assess the knowledge, attitude, practices, and their correlation among 274 randomly [...] Read more.
Primary care physicians play a vital role in preventing the progression of diabetic retinopathy (DR) from the initial stages to the late stages. This questionnaire-based analytical cross-sectional study was carried out to assess the knowledge, attitude, practices, and their correlation among 274 randomly selected primary care physicians in Saudi Arabia. Among the studied population, high knowledge, attitudes, and practice scores were observed in 21.5%, 15%, and 29.2% of the physicians, respectively. The mean knowledge score was significantly higher among the age group of less than 30 years (p = 0.031) and the female gender (p = 0.012). The attitude scores were significantly higher among the Saudi physicians (p = 0.027) and those with PHC work experience of less than five years (p < 0.001). Regarding the practices, a significant association was found among the age group of less than 30 years (p = 0.019) and Saudi physicians (p = 0.003). There was a significant positive correlation between knowledge (correlation coefficient (r) = 0.739, p < 0.001) and attitude (r = 0.479, p = 0.007) with the practice scores. It is recommended that targeted continuous medical education, workshops, and seminars are conducted on the prevention and care of DR among primary care physicians. Furthermore, an exploratory multicenter study that involves primary care physicians belonging to all ministries and private sectors is warranted. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Family Medicine: Opportunities and Challenges for Primary Healthcare)
Review
MRI as a Tool to Assess Interstitial Cystitis Associated Bladder and Brain Pathologies
by , , and
Diagnostics 2021, 11(12), 2298; https://doi.org/10.3390/diagnostics11122298 (registering DOI) - 08 Dec 2021
Abstract
Interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome (IC/BPS) is a chronic, often incapacitating condition characterized by pain seeming to originate in the bladder in conjunction with lower urinary tract symptoms of frequency and urgency, and consists of a wide range of clinical phenotypes with diverse etiologies. [...] Read more.
Interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome (IC/BPS) is a chronic, often incapacitating condition characterized by pain seeming to originate in the bladder in conjunction with lower urinary tract symptoms of frequency and urgency, and consists of a wide range of clinical phenotypes with diverse etiologies. There are currently no diagnostic tests for IC/BPS. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a relatively new tool to assess IC/BPS. There are several methodologies that can be applied to assess either bladder wall or brain-associated alterations in tissue morphology and/or pain. IC/BPS is commonly associated with bladder wall hyperpermeability (BWH), particularly in severe cases. Our group developed a contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (CE-MRI) approach to assess BWH in preclinical models for IC/BPS, as well as for a pilot study for IC/BPS patients. We have also used the CE-MRI approach to assess possible therapies to alleviate the BWH in preclinical models for IC/BPS, which will hopefully pave the way for future clinical trials. In addition, we have used molecular-targeted MRI (mt-MRI) to quantitatively assess BWH biomarkers. Biomarkers, such as claudin-2, may be important to assess and determine the severity of BWH, as well as to assess therapeutic efficacy. Others have also used other MRI approaches to assess the bladder wall structural alterations with diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI), by measuring changes in the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC), diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), as well as using functional MRI (fMRI) to assess pain and morphological MRI or DWI to assess anatomical or structural changes in the brains of patients with IC/BPS. It would be beneficial if MRI-based diagnostic tests could be routinely used for these patients and possibly used to assess potential therapeutics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biomarkers in Interstitial Cystitis/Bladder Pain Syndrome (IC/BPS))
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Article
Exploring Tobacco and E-Cigarette Use among Queer Adults during the Early Days of the COVID-19 Pandemic
by , , and
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(24), 12919; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph182412919 (registering DOI) - 08 Dec 2021
Abstract
The purpose of this narrative study is to describe the vaping and smoking characteristics of Queer people ages 18–34 before March of 2020 and to better understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted those behaviors since March of 2020. In total, 31 participants [...] Read more.
The purpose of this narrative study is to describe the vaping and smoking characteristics of Queer people ages 18–34 before March of 2020 and to better understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted those behaviors since March of 2020. In total, 31 participants were screened. Thirteen participants were screened prior to the emergence of COVID-19, and 18 were screened when study protocols transitioned to a remote setting (pre and during). Of the 27 eligible participants, a total of 25 participants completed the study. Most participants (n = 13) self-identified as male, followed by five identified as female, four self-identified as gender non-binary, and three identified as transgender. The most common sexual orientation amongst participants was gay (n = 10), with bisexual being the second-most reported. Approximately 20 Queer participants reported using cigarettes, 14 participants self-reported using electronic devices, and 11 reported using hookah. Twenty participants reported smoking ten or less, and four self-reported using 11–20 cigarettes per day. Approximately, 92% of participants (n = 23) indicate that they are using an e-cigarette and regular cigarettes, and 57% of participants (n = 12) report using one pod or cartridge per day. The three themes that emerged in this study are: (1) Queer people during COVID-19 are experiencing heightened minority stress; (2) Queer people are unfamiliar with smoking cessation; and (3) vaping and smoking are attributed to stress and anxiety. Queer participants are likely to be dual users of cigarette and vaping products. This present study provides increasing evidence that Queer people are experiencing heightened stress and anxiety and using cigarette smoking and vaping to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. Full article
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Article
Inflammatory Markers in Uterine Lavage Fluids of Pregnant, Non-Pregnant, and Intrauterine Device Implanted Mares on Days 10 and 15 Post Ovulation
by , , , , and
Animals 2021, 11(12), 3493; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11123493 (registering DOI) - 08 Dec 2021
Abstract
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are used in mares to suppress oestrous behaviour, but the underlying mechanism is yet to be elucidated. The presence of an embryo or an IUD prevents cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and, subsequently, prostaglandin (PG) release and luteolysis. However, inflammation may also be [...] Read more.
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are used in mares to suppress oestrous behaviour, but the underlying mechanism is yet to be elucidated. The presence of an embryo or an IUD prevents cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and, subsequently, prostaglandin (PG) release and luteolysis. However, inflammation may also be involved. Endometrial inflammatory markers in uterine lavage fluid were measured on Day 10 (EXP 1, n = 25) and Day 15 (EXP 2, n = 27) after ovulation in inseminated mares, non-pregnant or pregnant, and in mares in which a small plastic sphere had been inserted into the uterus 4 (EXP 1) or 3 days (EXP 2) after ovulation. Uterine lavage fluid samples were analysed for nitric oxide (NO), prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) (only Exp. 1), prostaglandin F (PGF), inhibin A and cytokines, and blood samples for progesterone and oestradiol. On Day 10, the concentration of PGF was lower (p < 0.05) in the IUD group than in pregnant mares. The concentration of the modulatory cytokine IL-10 was significantly higher in the IUD group in comparison to non-pregnant mares, and inhibin A was significantly higher in IUD mares than in the pregnant counterparts on Day 15. The results suggest that the presence of IUD causes endometrial inflammation which is at a resolution stage on Day 15. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Endometritis and Fibrosis: An Evolving Story)
Article
What Skills Do Agricultural Professionals Need in the Transition towards a Sustainable Agriculture? A Qualitative Literature Review
by , , , and
Sustainability 2021, 13(24), 13556; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132413556 (registering DOI) - 08 Dec 2021
Abstract
Agriculture is facing mounting challenges across the globe and must move towards more sustainable practices to combat climate change and meet changed production requirements. Education has been acknowledged as highly important in a sustainable transition, but there is no clear agreement about what [...] Read more.
Agriculture is facing mounting challenges across the globe and must move towards more sustainable practices to combat climate change and meet changed production requirements. Education has been acknowledged as highly important in a sustainable transition, but there is no clear agreement about what skills are needed for professionals in the agricultural system. The purpose of this paper is to identify and analyse skills needed for professionals in the agricultural system to engage in the transition towards sustainable agriculture and elaborate on the implications of this for a transition towards sustainable agriculture. The review is based on a qualitative semi-systematic literature review of 20 peer-reviewed articles concerned with sustainability, skills, and agriculture. Five categories of skills were identified and analysed, including systems perspective, lifelong learning, knowledge integration, building and maintaining networks and learning communities, and technical and subject-specific knowledge and technology. As the identified categories of skills have emerged from different contextual settings and a diverse group of actors, these five categories encourage a broad and inclusive understanding of skills that can be translated into different contextual settings, scales, and professions within the agricultural system. The article concludes that professionals engaged in the transition towards sustainable agriculture need skills that encourage a perspective that moves beyond generic discipline-based skills and instead builds on heterogeneity, inclusion, and use of different actors’ knowledge, practices, and experiences, and the ability to respond and be proactive in a constantly changing world. Full article
Article
Bidenichthys okamotoi, a New Species of the Bythitidae (Ophidiiformes, Teleostei) from the Koko Seamount, Central North Pacific
by , , and
J. Mar. Sci. Eng. 2021, 9(12), 1399; https://doi.org/10.3390/jmse9121399 (registering DOI) - 08 Dec 2021
Abstract
Two specimens from the Koko Seamount (Koko Guyot), in the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain, Central North Pacific, caught in 2009 and 2010 are here described as a new species, Bidenichthys okamotoi. The taxonomy of the species in the genera Bidenichthys Barnard, 1934, and [...] Read more.
Two specimens from the Koko Seamount (Koko Guyot), in the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain, Central North Pacific, caught in 2009 and 2010 are here described as a new species, Bidenichthys okamotoi. The taxonomy of the species in the genera Bidenichthys Barnard, 1934, and Fiordichthys Paulin, 1995, has been confusing due to the lost type of B. consorbrinus (Hutton, 1876) and the rarity of some of the species. Following the synonymization of Fiordichthys Paulin, 1995, with Bidenichthys by Møller and Nielsen 2015 and of Bidenichthys beeblebroxi Paulin, 1995, with Bidenichthys consobrinus Hutton, 1876, the genus Bidenichthys now comprises five species: B. capensis, B. consobrinus, B. okamotoi, B. paxtoni and B. slartibartfasti. Bidenichthys okamotoi differs from its congeners in, e.g., the fewer precaudal vertebrae (12 vs. 13), more palatine teeth rows (4–6 vs. 2–3), shorter pelvic fins (12.1–13.4% vs. 14.4–21.0% SL), max size (187 vs. 147 mm SL) and the shape of the sulcus of the otolith. We here present an updated diagnosis of the genus. A computed tomography (CT) scan of the holotype of B. okamotoi provides for additional anatomical details. The disjunctive occurrence of Bidenichthys okamotoi on the Emperor Seamount chain about 7500 km from the nearest congeneric taxon in New Zealand is discussed. The fossil otolith-based record of the genus Bidenichthys and its systematic implications is briefly discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Deepwater Fishes)
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Article
Twenty-Years of Experience in Childhood Glaucoma Surgery
by , , , , , and
J. Clin. Med. 2021, 10(24), 5720; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm10245720 - 08 Dec 2021
Abstract
To quantify the results of childhood glaucoma treatment over time in a cohort of children with different types of childhood glaucoma. A retrospective cohort study of consecutive cases involving children with primary congenital glaucoma, primary juvenile, and secondary juvenile glaucoma at the Childhood [...] Read more.
To quantify the results of childhood glaucoma treatment over time in a cohort of children with different types of childhood glaucoma. A retrospective cohort study of consecutive cases involving children with primary congenital glaucoma, primary juvenile, and secondary juvenile glaucoma at the Childhood Glaucoma Center, University Medical Center Mainz, Germany from 1995 to 2015 was conducted. The main outcome measure was the long-term development of intraocular pressure. Further parameters such as surgical success, refraction, corneal diameter, axial length, and surgical procedure in children with different types of childhood glaucoma were evaluated. Surgical success was defined as IOP < 21 mmHg in eyes without a need for further intervention for pressure reduction. A total of 93 glaucomatous eyes of 61 childhood glaucoma patients with a mean age of 3.7 ± 5.1 years were included. The overall mean intraocular pressure at first visit was 32.8 ± 10.2 mmHg and decreased to 15.5 ± 7.3 mmHg at the last visit. In the median follow-up time of 78.2 months, 271 surgical interventions were performed (130 of these were cyclophotocoagulations). Many (61.9%) of the eyes that underwent surgery achieved complete surgical success without additional medication. Qualified surgical success (with or without additional medication) was reached by 84.5% of the eyes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Glaucoma Treatment)
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Article
Students’ Perceptions of Involvement in the Assessment of Oral Competence in English as a Second Language
by and
Languages 2021, 6(4), 203; https://doi.org/10.3390/languages6040203 - 08 Dec 2021
Abstract
This mixed-method study examined students’ perceptions of involvement in the assessment practice of oral competence in English in Norwegian upper secondary schools. Student involvement in assessment can be seen as a key factor when it comes to enhancing students’ learning outcome and motivation. [...] Read more.
This mixed-method study examined students’ perceptions of involvement in the assessment practice of oral competence in English in Norwegian upper secondary schools. Student involvement in assessment can be seen as a key factor when it comes to enhancing students’ learning outcome and motivation. Previous research has, however, shown that student involvement and the assessment of oral competence in English as a second language classes have been challenging. Surveys (N = 116) and two focus group interviews (N = 8) were used. The findings revealed that the students wanted to be more involved in the assessment practice. Moreover, the students saw this increased involvement as a way to enhance their oral competence in English. The students expressed uncertainty as to what they were assessed by. The implications of this study suggest that increased involvement in developing goals and criteria and more dialogue-based feedback are beneficial measures for strengthening students’ learning outcomes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Recent Developments in Language Testing and Assessment)
Communication
A Hydrogel-Based Microfluidic Nerve Cuff for Neuromodulation of Peripheral Nerves
by , and
Micromachines 2021, 12(12), 1522; https://doi.org/10.3390/mi12121522 (registering DOI) - 08 Dec 2021
Abstract
Implantable neuromodulation devices typically have metal in contact with soft, ion-conducting nerves. These neural interfaces excite neurons using short-duration electrical pulses. While this approach has been extremely successful for multiple clinical applications, it is limited in delivering long-duration pulses or direct current (DC), [...] Read more.
Implantable neuromodulation devices typically have metal in contact with soft, ion-conducting nerves. These neural interfaces excite neurons using short-duration electrical pulses. While this approach has been extremely successful for multiple clinical applications, it is limited in delivering long-duration pulses or direct current (DC), even for acute term studies. When the charge injection capacity of electrodes is exceeded, irreversible electrochemical processes occur, and toxic byproducts are discharged directly onto the nerve, causing biological damage. Hydrogel coatings on electrodes improve the overall charge injection limit and provide a mechanically pliable interface. To further extend this idea, we developed a silicone-based nerve cuff lead with a hydrogel microfluidic conduit. It serves as a thin, soft and flexible interconnection and provides a greater spatial separation between metal electrodes and the target nerve. In an in vivo rat model, we used this cuff to stimulate and record from sciatic nerves, with performance comparable to that of metal electrodes. Further, we delivered DC through the lead in an acute manner to induce nerve block that is reversible. In contrast to most metallic cuff electrodes, which need microfabrication equipment, we built this cuff using a consumer-grade digital cutter and a simplified molding process. Overall, the device will be beneficial to neuromodulation researchers as a general-purpose nerve cuff electrode for peripheral neuromodulation experiments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Implantable Neural Interfaces)
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Article
Smartphone-Based Pedestrian Dead Reckoning for 3D Indoor Positioning
by , , , , and
Sensors 2021, 21(24), 8180; https://doi.org/10.3390/s21248180 (registering DOI) - 08 Dec 2021
Abstract
Indoor localization based on pedestrian dead reckoning (PDR) is drawing more and more attention of researchers in location-based services (LBS). The demand for indoor localization has grown rapidly using a smartphone. This paper proposes a 3D indoor positioning method based on the micro-electro-mechanical [...] Read more.
Indoor localization based on pedestrian dead reckoning (PDR) is drawing more and more attention of researchers in location-based services (LBS). The demand for indoor localization has grown rapidly using a smartphone. This paper proposes a 3D indoor positioning method based on the micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) sensors of the smartphone. A quaternion-based robust adaptive cubature Kalman filter (RACKF) algorithm is proposed to estimate the heading of pedestrians based on magnetic, angular rate, and gravity (MARG) sensors. Then, the pedestrian behavior patterns are distinguished by detecting the changes of pitch angle, total accelerometer and barometer values of the smartphone in the duration of effective step frequency. According to the geometric information of the building stairs, the step length of pedestrians and the height difference of each step can be obtained when pedestrians go up and downstairs. Combined with the differential barometric altimetry method, the optimal height can be computed by the robust adaptive Kalman filter (RAKF) algorithm. Moreover, the heading and step length of each step are optimized by the Kalman filter to reduce positioning error. In addition, based on the indoor map vector information, this paper proposes a heading calculation strategy of the 16-wind rose map to improve the pedestrian positioning accuracy and reduce the accumulation error. Pedestrian plane coordinates can be solved based on the Pedestrian Dead-Reckoning (PDR). Finally, combining pedestrian plane coordinates and height, the three-dimensional positioning coordinates of indoor pedestrians are obtained. The proposed algorithm is verified by actual measurement examples. The experimental verification was carried out in a multi-story indoor environment. The results show that the Root Mean Squared Error (RMSE) of location errors is 1.04–1.65 m by using the proposed algorithm for three participants. Furthermore, the RMSE of height estimation errors is 0.17–0.27 m for three participants, which meets the demand of personal intelligent user terminal for location service. Moreover, the height parameter enables users to perceive the floor information. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Navigation and Positioning)
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