Male Unfertility Rises Sharply In Developed World

Male fertility in the developed world is in sharp decline. A new study from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem shows a 52.4 percent fall in sperm concentration While total sperm count fell 59.3 percent between 1973 and 2011.


Our findings of sharp decline in sperm count among western men is the canary in the coal mine. It signifies that we have a serious problem with the health of men in the western world,” says Hagai Levine, lead-researcher at Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Public Health.

That’s because sperm count is a marker of men’s general health as well as fertility. The study analysed sperm count studies from across the world – and the trend was reflected in America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The next step is to investigate the causes of male infertility.
From previous research we know that exposure to man-made chemicals, especially during the critical period of the development of the male reproductive system in pre-natal life, in the early stages of pregnancy can severaly disrupt and can manifest later in life as low sperm count and problems with male fertility,” explains Hagai Levine. The study controlled for factors like age, sexual activity and the types of men, making its conclusions more reliable. “So if, for example, you have 50 studies in one country and they all show the same trend in declining sperm counts, including different counting methods in different groups of men, that makes it much more likely that it’s real” states Prof. Daniel Brison, scientific Director at the University of Manchester (Dept. of Reproductive Health).

The decline shows no sign of slowing. And the researchers say further research is urgently needed – and regulation of the environmental factors that may be contributing could be part of the solution.


How Yo Make Sea Water Drinkable

Graphene-oxide membranes have attracted considerable attention as promising candidates for new filtration technologies. Now the much sought-after development of making membranes capable of sieving common salts has been achieved. New research demonstrates the real-world potential of providing clean drinking water for millions of people who struggle to access adequate clean water sources. Graphene-oxide membranes developed at the National Graphene Institute have already demonstrated the potential of filtering out small nanoparticles, organic molecules, and even large salts. Until now, however, they couldn’t be used for sieving common salts used in desalination technologies, which require even smaller sieves. Previous research at The University of Manchester found that if immersed in water, graphene-oxide membranes become slightly swollen and smaller salts flow through the membrane along with water, but larger ions or molecules are blocked.

The Manchester-based group have now further developed these graphene membranes and found a strategy to avoid the swelling of the membrane when exposed to water. The pore size in the membrane can be precisely controlled which can sieve common salts out of salty water and make it safe to drink.


Realisation of scalable membranes with uniform pore size down to atomic scale is a significant step forward and will open new possibilities for improving the efficiency of desalination technology,” says Professor Rahul Raveendran Nair.

The new findings from a group of scientists at The University of Manchester have been published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.


First Graphene-Enhanced Aircraft

Prospero, the first model aircraft to incorporate a graphene skinned wing, was successfully flown at the Farnborough International Air Show in the UK earlier this year. The flight sets an example of how graphene might be used within the aerospace sector. Prospero has been exhibited at Composites Europe in Düsseldorf, Germany. Graphene exhibits impressive mechanical, thermal, electrical and barrier properties which are important features within the aerospace and automotive sector. It can be used as a nano-additive within thermoplastics and thermosets to improve the mechanical properties of the base material and also reduce weight. Upon further optimisation, thermal, electrical and barrier properties can also be imparted into a material, opening opportunities for multifunctional performance.


GRAPHENE: The one atom-thick material is 200 times stronger than steel and conducts electricity better than any material known to man. Scientists believe graphene has thousands of potential commercial applications, including being used in the next generation of aeroplanes and high-speed trains.


The test flight of Prospero represents a new stage in a research partnership which is investigating the effects of graphene in drag reduction, thermal management and ultimately the ability to achieve lightning strike protection for aerospace and other related sectors. This research is a joint collaboration between the University of Manchester and the University of Central Lancashire and several SMEs, including Haydale Composite Solutions. The University of Manchester is a partner of the Graphene Flagship, EU’s largest ever research initiative. During Composites Europe the Graphene Connect Workshop will highlight the wide range of applications for graphene in the aerospace sector.


After Graphene, New 2D Materials To Play With

Dozens of new two-dimensional materials similar to graphene are now available, thanks to research from the University of Manchester (U.K.) scientists. These 2D crystals are capable of delivering designer materials with revolutionary new properties. The problem has been that the vast majority of these atomically thin 2D crystals are unstable in air, so react and decompose before their properties can be determined and their potential applications investigated.  By protecting the new reactive crystals with more stable 2D materials, such as , via computer control in a specially designed inert gas chamber environments, these materials can be successfully isolated to a single atomic layer for the first time.
2D materials

The team created devices to stablise 2D materials

Combining a range of 2D materials in thin stacks give scientists the opportunity to control the properties of the materials, which can allow ‘materials-to-order’ to meet the demands of industry.  High-frequency electronics for satellite communications, and light weight batteries for mobile energy storage are just two of the application areas that could benefit from this research. The breakthrough could allow for many more atomically thin materials to be studied separately as well as serve as building blocks for multilayer devices with such tailored properties.

The team, led by Dr Roman Gorbachev, used their unique fabrication method on two particular two-dimensional crystals that have generated intense scientific interest in the past 12 months but are unstable in air: black phosphorus and niobium diselenide. The technique the team have pioneered allows the unique characteristics and excellent electronic properties of these air-sensitive 2D crystals to be revealed for the first time.

The isolation of graphene in 2004 by a University of Manchester team lead by Sir Andre Geim and Sir Kostya Novoselov led to the discovery of a range of 2D materials, each with specific properties and qualities. Dr Gorbachev said: “This is an important breakthrough in the area of 2D materials research, as it allows us to dramatically increase the variety of materials that we can experiment with using our expanding 2D crystal toolbox”. The more materials we have to play with, the greater potential there is for creating applications that could revolutionise the way we live.” Sir Andre Geim added.

Writing in NanoLetters, the University of Manchester team demonstrate how tailored fabrication methods can make these previously inaccessible materials useful.


Graphene Attacks Cancer Stem Cells

University of Manchester scientists have used graphene to target and neutralisecancer stem cells while not harming other cells. Writing in the journal Oncotarget, the team of researchers led by Professor Michael Lisanti and Dr Aravind Vijayaraghavan has shown that graphene oxide , a modified form of graphene, acts as an anti-cancer agent that selectively targets cancer stem cells (CSCs).
In combination with existing treatments, this could eventually lead to tumour shrinkage as well as preventing the spread of cancer and its recurrence after treatment. However, more pre-clinical studies and extensive clinical trials will be necessary to move this forward into the clinic to ensure patient benefit.

graphene interacts with cellGraphene oxide flakes interacting with cell membranes

Cancer stem cells possess the ability to give rise to many different tumour cell types. They are responsible for the spread of cancer within the body – known as metastasis– which is responsible for 90% of cancer deaths“, explains Professor Lisanti, the Director of the Manchester Centre for Cellular Metabolism within the University’s Institute of Cancer Sciences.
They also play a crucial role in the recurrence of tumours after treatment. This is because conventional radiation and chemotherapies only kill the ‘bulk’ cancer cells, but do not generally affect the CSCs.”


How To Obtain Drinkable Water From Sea Water

Membranes made from graphene oxide could act as perfect molecular sieves when immersed in water, blocking all molecules or ions with a hydrated size larger than 9 Å. This new result, from researchers at the University of Manchester in the UK, means that the laminated nanostructures might be ideal for water filtration and desalination applications.
Graphene is a sheet of carbon just one atom thick in which the atoms are arranged in a honeycomb lattice. Graphene oxide is like ordinary graphene but is covered with molecules such as hydroxyl groups. Graphene-oxide sheets can easily be stacked on top of each other to form extremely thin but mechanically strong membranes. These membranes consist of millions of small flakes of graphene oxide with nanosized empty channels (or capillaries) between the flakes.

Water and small-sized ions and molecules permeate super fast in the graphene-oxide membrane, but larger species are blocked. The size of the membrane mesh can be tuned by adjusting the nanochannel size
According to the team, the membranes could be ideal for removing valuable salts and molecules from contaminated larger molecules – for example during oil spills. “More importantly, our work shows that if we were able to further control the capillary size below 9 Å, we should be able to use these membranes to filter and desalinate water,” says co-team-leader Rahul Nair.
Indeed, the team says that it is now busy looking at ways to control the mesh size of the graphene oxide and reduce it to about 6 Å so that the membranes can filter out even the smallest salts in sea water. “We might achieve this by preventing the graphene-oxide laminates from swelling when they are placed in water,” says Nair.
Our ultimate goal would be to make a filter device from the carbon-based material that allows you to obtain a glass of drinkable water from sea water using a hand-held mechanical pump,” adds team member Irina Grigorieva.

How To See Internal Structure Of Objects

University of Manchester researchers, working with colleagues in the UK, Europe and the US, designed a novel imaging technique that could have a wide range of applications across many disciplines, such as materials science, geology, environmental science and medical research.

x-ray vision

This new imaging method – termed Pair Distribution Function-Computed Tomography – represents one of the most significant developments in X-ray micro tomography for almost 30 years,” said Professor Robert Cernik in Manchester’s School of Materials.”
Using this method we are able to image objects in a non-invasive manner to reveal their physical and chemical nano-properties and relate these to their distribution in three-dimensional space at the micron scale.
“Such relationships are key to understanding the properties of materials and so could be used to look at in-situ chemical reactions, probe stress-strain gradients in manufactured components, distinguish between healthy and diseased tissue, identify minerals and oil-bearing rocks or identify illicit substances or contraband in luggage.


Graphene Re-Knits Its Holes

Graphene,  the 'miracle material undergoes a self repairing process to mend holes. This discovery has been made by researchers at The University of Manchester and the SuperSTEM  facility at STFC's Daresbury Laboratory (United Kingdom)Graphene, which is made of sheets of carbon just one atom thick, is a promising material for a wide range of future applications due, for instance, to its exceptional electronic properties.

The team, led by Professor Kostya Novoselov, who shared a Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 for exploiting the remarkable properties of graphene's, was originally looking to gain a deeper understanding into how metals interact with graphene, essential if it is to be integrated into practical electronic devices in the future