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Open AccessArticle
Field Evaluation of a Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) Platform for the Detection of Schistosoma japonicum Infection in Oncomelania hupensis Snails
Trop. Med. Infect. Dis. 2018, 3(4), 124; https://doi.org/10.3390/tropicalmed3040124 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
Schistosoma infection in snails can be monitored by microscopy or indirectly by sentinel mice. As both these approaches can miss infections, more sensitive tests are needed, particularly in low-level transmission settings. In this study, loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) technique, designed to detect a
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Schistosoma infection in snails can be monitored by microscopy or indirectly by sentinel mice. As both these approaches can miss infections, more sensitive tests are needed, particularly in low-level transmission settings. In this study, loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) technique, designed to detect a specific 28S ribosomal Schistosoma japonicum (Sj28S) gene with high sensitivity, was compared to microscopy using snail samples from 51 areas endemic for schistosomiasis in five Chinese provinces. In addition, the results were compared with those from polymerase chain reaction (PCR) by adding DNA sequencing as a reference. The testing of pooled snail samples with the LAMP assay showed that a dilution factor of 1/50, i.e., one infected snail plus 49 non-infected ones, would still result in a positive reaction after the recommended number of amplification cycles. Testing a total of 232 pooled samples, emanating from 4006 snail specimens, showed a rate of infection of 6.5%, while traditional microscopy found only 0.4% positive samples in the same materials. Parallel PCR analysis confirmed the diagnostic accuracy of the LAMP assay, with DNA sequencing even giving LAMP a slight lead. Microscopy and the LAMP test were carried out at local schistosomiasis-control stations, demonstrating that the potential of the latter assay to serve as a point-of-care (POC) test with results available within 60–90 min, while the more complicated PCR test had to be carried out at the National Institute of Parasitic Diseases (NIPD) in Shanghai, China. In conclusion, LAMP was found to be clearly superior to microscopy and as good as, or better than, PCR. As it can be used under field conditions and requires less time than other techniques, LAMP testing would improve and accelerate schistosomiasis control. Full article
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Open AccessReview
Visualising the Cardiovascular System of Embryos of Biomedical Model Organisms with High Resolution Episcopic Microscopy (HREM)
J. Cardiovasc. Dev. Dis. 2018, 5(4), 58; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcdd5040058 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
The article will briefly introduce the high-resolution episcopic microscopy (HREM) technique and will focus on its potential for researching cardiovascular development and remodelling in embryos of biomedical model organisms. It will demonstrate the capacity of HREM for analysing the cardiovascular system of normally
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The article will briefly introduce the high-resolution episcopic microscopy (HREM) technique and will focus on its potential for researching cardiovascular development and remodelling in embryos of biomedical model organisms. It will demonstrate the capacity of HREM for analysing the cardiovascular system of normally developed and genetically or experimentally malformed zebrafish, frog, chick and mouse embryos in the context of the whole specimen and will exemplarily show the possibilities HREM offers for comprehensive visualisation of the vasculature of adult human skin. Finally, it will provide examples of the successful application of HREM for identifying cardiovascular malformations in genetically altered mouse embryos produced in the deciphering the mechanisms of developmental disorders (DMDD) program. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Bank Credit and Housing Prices in China: Evidence from a TVP-VAR Model with Stochastic Volatility
J. Risk Financial Manag. 2018, 11(4), 90; https://doi.org/10.3390/jrfm11040090 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
Housing prices in China have been rising rapidly in recent years, which is a cause for concern for China’s housing market. Does bank credit influence housing prices? If so, how? Will the housing prices affect the bank credit system if the market collapses?
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Housing prices in China have been rising rapidly in recent years, which is a cause for concern for China’s housing market. Does bank credit influence housing prices? If so, how? Will the housing prices affect the bank credit system if the market collapses? We aim to study the dynamic relationship between housing prices and bank credit in China from the second quarter of 2005 to the fourth quarter of 2017 by using a time-varying parameter vector autoregression (VAR) model with stochastic volatility. Furthermore, we study the relationships between housing prices and housing loans on the demand side and real estate development loans on the supply side, separately. Finally, we obtain several findings. First, the relationship between housing prices and bank credit shows significant time-varying features; second, the mutual effects of housing prices and bank credit vary between the demand side and supply side; third, influences of housing prices on all kinds of bank credit are stronger than influences in the opposite direction. Full article
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Graphical abstract

Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
It’s about Time: Ossification Center Formation in C57BL/6 Mice from E12–E16
J. Dev. Biol. 2018, 6(4), 31; https://doi.org/10.3390/jdb6040031 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
The establishment of precise, high-resolution temporal sequences for morphogenetic events in laboratory mice remains a vexing issue in developmental biology. Mouse embryos collected at the same period of gestation, even those from the same litter, show wide variation in individual levels of progress
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The establishment of precise, high-resolution temporal sequences for morphogenetic events in laboratory mice remains a vexing issue in developmental biology. Mouse embryos collected at the same period of gestation, even those from the same litter, show wide variation in individual levels of progress along their developmental trajectory. Therefore, age at harvest does not provide sufficient information about developmental progress to serve as the basis for forming samples for the study of rapidly or near-simultaneously occurring events such as the sequence of ossification center formation. Here, we generate two measures of individual developmental progress (developmental age) for a large sample of mouse embryos using crown–rump lengths that measures size, and limbstaging ages produced by the embryonic Mouse Ontogenetic Staging System (eMOSS) that measure shape. Using these measures, we establish fine-grained sequences of ossification center appearance for mouse embryos. The two measures of developmental progress generate slightly different sequences of ossification center formation demonstrating that despite their tight correlation throughout the developmental period, size and shape are aspects of form that are at least partially dissociated in development. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Preparation and Characterization of Callus Extract from Pyrus pyrifolia and Investigation of Its Effects on Skin Regeneration
Cosmetics 2018, 5(4), 71; https://doi.org/10.3390/cosmetics5040071 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
In the present study, an aqueous extract was prepared using calli from the in vitro-derived leaves of Pyrus pyrifolia cultured in Murashige and Skoog medium containing picloram for a plant growth regulator. The major biological components in the callus extract were identified as
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In the present study, an aqueous extract was prepared using calli from the in vitro-derived leaves of Pyrus pyrifolia cultured in Murashige and Skoog medium containing picloram for a plant growth regulator. The major biological components in the callus extract were identified as uridine (1), adenosine (2), and guanosine (3). In terms of the antioxidant activity, at 300 µg/mL, the extract exhibited free radical scavenging activity of 76.9% ± 2.88% in the 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) assay, comparable to that of 44 µg/mL ascorbic acid (82.5% ± 3.63%). In addition, the IC50 values for inhibition of advanced glycation end product formation from collagen and elastin were 602 ± 2.72 and 3037 ± 102.5 µg/mL, respectively. The extract significantly promoted keratinocyte and fibroblast cell proliferation in a dose-dependent manner. Moreover, fibroblasts treated with 1.36 µg/mL extract exhibited a 1.60-fold increase in procollagen type I C-peptide level compared to controls. The in vitro wound recovery rates of keratinocytes and fibroblasts were also 75% and 38% greater, respectively, than those of serum-free controls at 9 and 36 h after extract treatment (1.36 µg/mL). Additionally, the extract flux across the human epidermis increased by 1598% after its incorporation into elastic nanoliposomes (NLs). Therefore, elastic NLs loaded with Pyrus pyrifolia callus extract have potential use as skin rejuvenators and antiaging ingredients in cosmetic formulations. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Novel Lipidized Derivatives of the Bioflavonoid Hesperidin: Dermatological, Cosmetic and Chemopreventive Applications
Cosmetics 2018, 5(4), 72; https://doi.org/10.3390/cosmetics5040072 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
Hesperidin is one of the most important natural flavonoids, known for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic, and anti-hypertensive properties. Despite its various biological activities, hesperidin is rarely used in the dermo-cosmetic field because of its poor solubility in both water and oil phases that
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Hesperidin is one of the most important natural flavonoids, known for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic, and anti-hypertensive properties. Despite its various biological activities, hesperidin is rarely used in the dermo-cosmetic field because of its poor solubility in both water and oil phases that makes difficult formulation, distribution and bioavailability through the skin layers. Moreover, hesperidin is still underestimated in skin care products, and literature data on its stability into a topical formulation are not yet available. In this paper we report the synthesis of five different derivatives of hesperidin and their evaluation in terms of antioxidant, antifungal, antiproliferative, and apoptotic effects on human leukemic K562 cells. Preliminary antiproliferative effects were considered since hyper-proliferation is involved in several cutaneous problems particularly in the case of photo-exposition and environmental pollution. Esp4 and Esp5 were found to be more active in inhibiting K562 cell growth than parent hesperidin. Esp3 exhibited different biological properties, i.e., antioxidant activity in the absence of antiproliferative effects. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Quantum-Mechanical Study of Nanocomposites with Low and Ultra-Low Interface Energies
Nanomaterials 2018, 8(12), 1057; https://doi.org/10.3390/nano8121057 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
We applied first-principles electronic structure calculations to study structural, thermodynamic and elastic properties of nanocomposites exhibiting nearly perfect match of constituting phases. In particular, two combinations of transition-metal disilicides and one pair of magnetic phases containing the Fe and Al atoms with different
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We applied first-principles electronic structure calculations to study structural, thermodynamic and elastic properties of nanocomposites exhibiting nearly perfect match of constituting phases. In particular, two combinations of transition-metal disilicides and one pair of magnetic phases containing the Fe and Al atoms with different atomic ordering were considered. Regarding the disilicides, nanocomposites MoSi2/WSi2 with constituents crystallizing in the tetragonal C11b structure and TaSi2/NbSi2 with individual phases crystallizing in the hexagonal C40 structure were simulated. Constituents within each pair of materials exhibit very similar structural and elastic properties and for their nanocomposites we obtained ultra-low (nearly zero) interface energy (within the error bar of our calculations, i.e., about 0.005 J/m2). The interface energy was found to be nearly independent on the width of individual constituents within the nanocomposites and/or crystallographic orientation of the interfaces. As far as the nanocomposites containing Fe and Al were concerned, we simulated coherent superlattices formed by an ordered Fe3Al intermetallic compound and a disordered Fe-Al phase with 18.75 at.% Al, the α-phase. Both phases were structurally and elastically quite similar but the disordered α-phase lacked a long-range periodicity. To determine the interface energy in these nanocomposites, we simulated seven different distributions of atoms in the α-phase interfacing the Fe3Al intermetallic compound. The resulting interface energies ranged from ultra low to low values, i.e., from 0.005 to 0.139 J/m2. The impact of atomic distribution on the elastic properties was found insignificant but local magnetic moments of the iron atoms depend sensitively on the type and distribution of surrounding atoms. Full article
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Open AccessCommentary
Best Practices in Fragile X Syndrome Treatment Development
Brain Sci. 2018, 8(12), 224; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci8120224 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
Preclinical studies using animal models of fragile X syndrome have yielded several agents that rescue a wide variety of phenotypes. However, translation of these treatments to humans with the disorder has not yet been successful, shedding light on a variety of limitations with
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Preclinical studies using animal models of fragile X syndrome have yielded several agents that rescue a wide variety of phenotypes. However, translation of these treatments to humans with the disorder has not yet been successful, shedding light on a variety of limitations with both animal models and human trial design. As members of the Clinical Trials Committee of the National Fragile X Foundation, we have discussed a variety of recommendations at the level of preclinical development, transition from preclinical to human projects, family involvement, and multi-site trial planning. Our recommendations are made with the vision that effective new treatment will lie at the intersection of innovation, rigorous and reproducible research, and stakeholder involvement. Full article
Open AccessArticle
The Application of Freely-Available Satellite Imagery for Informing and Complementing Archaeological Fieldwork in the “Black Desert” of North-Eastern Jordan
Geosciences 2018, 8(12), 491; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences8120491 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
Recent developments in the availability of very high-resolution satellite imagery through platforms like GoogleEarth (Google, Santa Clara County, CA, USA) and Bing Maps (Microsoft, Redmond, WA, USA) have greatly opened up the possibilities of their use by researchers. This paper focusses on the
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Recent developments in the availability of very high-resolution satellite imagery through platforms like GoogleEarth (Google, Santa Clara County, CA, USA) and Bing Maps (Microsoft, Redmond, WA, USA) have greatly opened up the possibilities of their use by researchers. This paper focusses on the exclusive use of free remote sensing data by the Western Harra Survey (WHS), an archaeological project investigating the arid “Black Desert” of north-eastern Jordan, a largely impenetrable landscape densely strewn with basalt blocks. The systematic analysis of such data by conducting a holistic satellite survey prior to the commencement of fieldwork allowed for the precise planning of ground surveys, with advanced knowledge of which sites were vehicle-accessible and how to efficiently visit a stratified sample of different site types. By subsequently correlating the obtained ground data with this analysis, it was possible to create a typological seriation of the site forms known as “wheels”, determine that at least two-thirds of sites are within 500 m of valleys or mudflats (highlighting these features’ roles as access routes and resource clusters) and identify numerous anthropogenic paths cleared through the basalt for site access and long-distance travel. These results offer new insights into this underrepresented region and allow for supra-regional comparisons with better investigated areas by a method that is rapid and cost-effective. Full article
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Riverbank Filtration Impacts on Post Disinfection Water Quality in Small Systems—A Case Study from Auburn and Nebraska City, Nebraska
Water 2018, 10(12), 1865; https://doi.org/10.3390/w10121865 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
Small water systems can experience a fluctuating quality of water in the distribution system after disinfection. As chlorine is the most common disinfectant for small systems, the occurrence of disinfection byproducts (DBPs) represents a common problem for these systems. Riverbank filtration (RBF) can
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Small water systems can experience a fluctuating quality of water in the distribution system after disinfection. As chlorine is the most common disinfectant for small systems, the occurrence of disinfection byproducts (DBPs) represents a common problem for these systems. Riverbank filtration (RBF) can be a valuable solution for small communities located on riverbanks. The objectives of this study were to evaluate (i) the improvements in water quality at two selected RBF systems, and (ii) the potential lower concentrations of DBPs, in particular, trihalomethanes (THMs), in small systems that use RBF. Two small communities in Nebraska, Auburn and Nebraska City, using RBF were selected. Results from this study highlight the ability of RBF systems to consistently improve the quality of the source water and reduce the occurrence of THMs in the distribution water. However, the relative removal of THMs was directly impacted by the dissolved organic carbon (DOC) removal. Different THM concentrations and different DOC removals were observed at the two RBF sites due to the different travel distances between the river and the extractions wells. Full article
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