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Large amounts of sugar under seagrass beds

Large quantities of sugar are released into the soil by seaweeds. Worldwide, that’s more than 1 million metric tons of sucrose – enough sugar for 32 billion cans of cola. This is astonishing: Normally, microbes consume any freely available sugar in a flash. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology also found that the seaweeds release phenols. These keep most microbes from breaking down sucrose. Thus, it is possible that it remains buried under the seagrasses and is not converted into CO2 and released back into the ocean and atmosphere. The researchers now present their discovery in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Seagrasses form lush underwater meadows in many coastal regions of the world. These marine plants are very efficient at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere: one square kilometer of seagrass stores almost twice as much carbon as forests on land, and 35 times as fast. Now, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen, Germany, have found that seagrasses release a lot of sugar into their soils, called the rhizosphere. The concentration of sugar under the seagrass was at least 80 times higher than anything previously measured in the ocean. “To put this in perspective, we estimate that between 0.6 and 1.3 million tons of sugar, mainly in the form of sucrose, are stored in the seagrass rhizosphere worldwide,” explains Manuel Liebeke, head of the Metabolic Interactions research group at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology. “That’s roughly equivalent to the amount of sugar in 32 billion cans of Coke!”

Phenols spoil microbes’ sweet tooth

Microbes love sugar: it’s easy to digest and full of energy. Why don’t the numerous microorganisms in the seagrass rhizosphere snack on sucrose? “We’ve been trying to figure that out for a long time,” says first author Maggie Sogin, who led the research off the Italian island of Elba and at the Max Planck Institute in Bremen, Germany, and is now at the University of California Merced. “We found that seagrass – like many other plants – releases phenols into its sediment.” Phenols are not uncommon in our environment: red wine, coffee and fruit are full of them, and many people take them as dietary supplements. But these substances also have antimicrobial effects and inhibit the metabolism of most microorganisms. “We did experiments where we exposed the microorganisms in the seagrass rhizosphere to phenolics isolated from the seagrass – and sure enough, much less sucrose was consumed there than when we didn’t add phenolics.”

Some specialists use the sugars under the seagrass

 “The seagrass produces the sugars during photosynthesis. Under average light conditions, the plants use most of this sugar for their own metabolism and growth. But in very strong light, for example at midday or in summer, they produce more sugar than they can use or store. Then they release the excess sucrose into their rhizosphere. It’s sort of an overflow valve.”

– Nicole Dubilier, director at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology

Amazingly, a small group of microbial specialists thrive despite the difficult conditions. Sogin suspects that these specialists are not only able to digest sucrose and break down phenols, but also benefit the seagrass – by producing nutrients it needs to grow, such as nitrogen. “We know such beneficial relationships between plants and microorganisms in the rhizosphere well from land plants. But we are just beginning to understand the intimate and complicated interactions of seagrasses with microorganisms in the marine rhizosphere,” Sogin said.

Important endangered habitats

Seagrass beds are among the most threatened habitats on the planet. “Large amounts of stored carbon would be released if seagrass beds continue to decline. Yet our research shows quite clearly that it is not only the seagrass itself that needs to be considered, but also the large amounts of sucrose among the living seagrass meadows. Our calculations show that if the sucrose in the seagrass rhizosphere were broken down by microbes, up to 1,540,000 tons of carbon dioxide would be released into the atmosphere worldwide,” Liebeke explains.

“That’s roughly equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by 330,000 cars in a year.” Seagrass populations are declining rapidly in all oceans. Annual losses are estimated to be as high as seven percent in some locations, comparable to the loss of coral reefs and tropical rainforests. As much as one-third of the world’s seagrass may already have been lost. “We don’t know as much about seagrasses as we do about terrestrial habitats,” Sogin points out. “Our study helps us better understand one of the planet’s most important coastal habitats and highlights the importance of conserving these ‘blue carbon ecosystems.'”

Ingredients & Auxiliary Materials News Processing Technologies

Electric drives offer high positioning repeatability    



Whether for alignment, conveying, or pick-and-place and vertical transport applications: Electric drives are used throughout the industry to move workpieces. To ensure the required process reliability, very precise positioning repeatability and very low backlash are necessary in some cases. To enable users to meet these high requirements even better, SMC has expanded its established LESH series of electric actuators to include the LESYH series as electric compact slides in a highly rigid design. They impress with a positioning repeatability of ±0.01 mm (±10 μm) thanks to recirculating ball screws, a backlash of max. 0.1 mm and a vertical payload of up to 20 kg.

They also feature a battery-free absolute encoder that enables fast (re)startup.   Transfer applications using electric drives are part of the standard repertoire throughout the industry. If the requirements for precise positioning are particularly high, users must resort to solutions with very accurate repeatability. With the LESH series from SMC, designers already had established drives at their disposal for this purpose – whose performance figures have now been increased again with the series. Thus, the new electric compact slides in a highly rigid design have, in addition to a positioning repeatability accurate to the micrometer, also a very low backlash, can move even higher payloads vertically and also make reference runs unnecessary thanks to a battery-free absolute encoder. The specialist for pneumatic and electric automation thus covers an even wider range of applications.

Precise and powerful

Thanks to the use of a recirculating ball screw for the drive, which can be operated with either a stepper motor or servo motor (24 VDC each), the series achieves a repeat accuracy of ±0.01 mm during positioning. This means that it meets particularly high requirements in terms of precision. This is further supported by a maximum backlash of 0.1 mm. Designers thus benefit from improved process reliability in high-precision applications – and this at a max. acceleration of 5000 mm/s2 and a maximum speed of 400 mm/s, which ensures short cycle times. The series is available as a design with or without belt. The latter allows the use as a Z-axis for lifting or lowering workpieces. Compared to the previous series, the vertical payload has once again been significantly increased: from 0.5 to 6 kg (size 8), from 2 to 12 kg (size 16) and from 4 to 20 kg (size 25). If users opt for the option with motor brake, they can access a holding force of up to 385 N. Overall, designers can thus cover a significantly more extensive range of applications.

High flexibility, compatibility and productivity

With the LESYH series, motor mounting is possible in three directions: axial, right or left parallel. In the stepper motor version, the JXC series controllers provide control of the drives via various fieldbus systems (PROFINET, EtherCAT, EtherNet/IP) or other control systems such as IO-Link as well as parallel inputs – in the case of AC servo motors, these are the LECN-T series controllers. As an extension of the LESH series established on the market, it can also be easily integrated. In addition, motors (motor power 100/200 W) from 18 manufacturers can be used for the motorless version. Together, this gives users a high degree of flexibility in machine design.    In addition to its impressive performance figures, the LESYH series features a battery-free absolute encoder that stores the last position of the drive in the event of a power failure or emergency stop, for example.

This means that operation can be resumed immediately without a time-consuming reference run, which means more productivity. In addition, not only storage and maintenance requirements are reduced, but also the ecological footprint, since no battery is required, which therefore does not have to be stored or maintained, nor does it have to be disposed of. To reliably detect end positions and intermediate positions, the series can be optionally equipped with a D-M9 series electronic signal transmitter from SMC. This has a 2-color display, whereby the optimum operating range (green) is immediately apparent.

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Ingredients & Auxiliary Materials Measurement, Instrumentation, Control & Automation News Processing Technologies

Further expansion of renewable energies



The German-Tunisian energy partnership will celebrate its tenth anniversary in September 2022. With a “Memorandum of Understanding” signed on May 11, 2022, this partnership was reaffirmed. The occasion was the workshop on “Renewable Energies in Tunisia” organized by the Chair of Wind Energy Technology at the University of Rostock in Tunis.

The signatories, about twenty Tunisian and German organizations, set themselves the particular goal of forming an open network for the exchange of innovation actors. The workshop was held as part of the international cooperation project Wind4Grid together with project partners from Tunisia and with the support of the Steinbeis Research Center Northeast. About forty participants from Tunisia and Germany discussed the current state of energy supply and the potentials of renewable energies. Specifically, the topics were the use of a wind turbine with battery storage for better grid integration, the further expansion of wind energy, the use of renewable electrical energy for the production of hydrogen, methanol and ethanol, seawater desalination for electrolysis, scenarios for offshore wind energy in Tunisia and lightweight construction concepts for wind turbines.

In addition to Professor Uwe Ritschel and Habib Ur Rehman from the Chair of Wind Energy Technology, Peter Stein, former member of the German Bundestag, and Frank Graage, head of the Steinbeis Center Northeast, participated from Rostock. The Wind4Grid project is part of the bilateral science and technology cooperation program TUNGER 2+2, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Tunisian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.

Directly involved in the project are the Laboratoire d’Etudes des Systèmes Thermiques et Energétiques (Thermal and Energy Systems Laboratory, LESTE), the Chair of Wind Energy Technology, University of Rostock, LWET, Freqcon GmbH, Qair and Steinbeis Transfer GmbH.



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Ingredients & Auxiliary Materials News Pharmaceuticals Processing Technologies

Innovative insights into emergence and classification into subtypes



One of the deadliest tumor types is pancreatic cancer . The disease is often only discovered in locally advanced or metastasized tumor stages, when surgical intervention comes too late. Researchers led by Dr. Ivonne Regel of LMU Klinikum in Munich have now gained important new insights into the causes of tumor development. They have also succeeded in defining different tumor subtypes based on differences in their metabolic programs. Funded by the Wilhelm Sander Foundation, they are thus making a significant contribution to early detection and to individualized medicine in order to improve the chances of recovery for pancreatic cancer patients.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, also known as pancreatic cancer, is a relatively rare but particularly malignant disease. It represents the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the European Union, and only about 10 percent of patients survive the first five years after diagnosis. This is due to aggressive growth and late diagnosis of the tumor. Pancreatic cancer often manifests itself only after other organs have already been affected and metastases are present. To improve the chance of cure for pancreatic cancer patients, it is of great urgency to find new biomarkers for early detection. Another essential step is to identify tumor-specific signaling pathways that cause aggressive disease progression in order to identify new targets for therapeutic approaches.

TLR3/IRF3/IRF7 signaling pathway critical for pancreatic cancer development

Pancreatic cancer development is a dynamic process involving tissue damage and inflammatory response in the pancreas. When pancreatitis occurs, the organ has a self-healing mechanism. Normal pancreatic cells can divide to replace damaged tissue. Molecules released during inflammatory and tissue-damaging processes are recognized by cell receptors, relaying signals that promote cell survival and division.

However, in pancreatic cells, this can contribute to cell degeneration and promote the development of pancreatic cancer. Researchers led by Dr. Ivonne Regel were able to show for the first time that the signaling pathway plays an important role in inflammatory responses not only in immune cells, but is also active in pancreatic cells of precursor lesions and tumor cells. This activation of the signaling pathway has an important function in pancreatic cancer development. Genetically-altered mice lacking a functional signaling pathway are unable to develop pancreatic carcinomas (see Figure). Similarly, it was genetically knocked out in pancreatic tumor cells using CRISPR/Cas9 gene scissors. These genetically modified tumor cells exhibited significantly less aggressive behavior in cell culture experiments and also showed greatly reduced metastasis in animal models.

“For the first time, we were able to demonstrate that an active signaling pathway in pancreatic cells contributes to the development of pancreatic cancer and also supports the formation of metastases.”

– Ivonne Regel

Dr. Regel’s team has made another exciting discovery: In pancreatic tumor cells, the signaling pathway surprisingly does not regulate known target genes; instead, evidence was found for epigenetic modifications. These are regulatory modifications to DNA and packaging proteins (histones) that influence the activity of genes. Thus, the current research results indicate that activation of the signaling pathway in tumor cells leads to high levels of transcription of specific tumor-promoting genes.

These genes primarily regulate tumor cell metabolism. This is particularly important because metabolites of tumor cells can be found in the blood of patients and can be used as biomarkers. “My team and I have succeeded in identifying different subtypes of pancreatic cancer from the blood of cancer patients based on differences in their metabolic programs” said Dr. Regel. “In further studies, we now want to find out to what extent the development of pancreatic cancer subtypes is regulated by the signaling pathway.”


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