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Alarming images reveal the different types of facial reactions related to face masks

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Wearing a face mask for extended periods of time is causing some people to have severe outbreaks of skin conditions like eczema and acne, dermatologists warn. 

Experts explored instances of the most common causes of facial conditions directly caused by wearing face masks and other PPE, a phenomenon known as ‘maskne’.  

The team from King’s College Hospital, London looked at all forms of facial PPE, including face shields, visors, safety glasses, surgical masks and respirators.

The article, published in the British Medical Journal, was written to help doctors and specialists diagnose ‘maskne’ and identify skin breakouts not related to PPE. 

It features a range of images showing different types of facial skin conditions caused as a direct result of mask wearing, that were used to create a flow chart specialists can follow to better diagnose and in turn treat a specific condition. 

Inflamed and scaly skin on the face of a 30 year old woman with seborrheic dermatitis. This is an inflammatory disorder where the skin becomes flaky, itchy and red. It occurs especially in areas rich in oil-producing sebaceous glands, such as the scalp and round the nose

Close-up of urticaria on the face of an 11-year-old female patient. Urticaria, also known as nettle rash or hives, is a skin condition in which a rash of itchy wheals or lumps develops on the skin, usually on the trunk or limbs

The researchers created a flow chart specialists can follow to better diagnose and in turn treat a specific condition

REQUIREMENTS FOR DIAGNOSING MASKNE

Researchers say certain aspects of patient history can help diagnose Maskne treatment.

This includes:

  • History of skin disease and a comprehensive drug history that includes prescribed, over-the-counter, and complementary medicines 
  • Relationship with mask wearing, including whether periods without mask wearing improved the issue 
  • Symptoms of itch, soreness, and appearance of pustules or papules
  • Duration of PPE exposure each day and whether mask breaks are allowed 
  • Assess the impact on the patient’s mood, work, and social life to assess severity and decide further management 
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The coronavirus pandemic has led to a notable rise in people wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), especially masks due to government orders. 

The term ‘maskne’ has become increasingly popular during the pandemic, where it is used to describe several facial skin conditions caused by mask wearing.

Individuals often buy expensive but potentially ineffective treatments for these conditions, so King’s College Hospital researchers set out to improve diagnosis. 

‘In this practice pointer we summarise the most common causes of facial eruptions associated with wearing facial PPE,’ authors of the article wrote.

They also highlight the ‘key areas to cover when assessing someone with new or worsening pre-existing facial dermatoses that they attribute to the use of facial PPE.’

The researchers, including Emily Rudd, dermatology senior clinical fellow and Sarah Walsh, dermatology consultant wanted to make diagnosis more consistent.

Facial skin defects related to PPE have been well described in previous research, but doctors and specialists are using descriptive terms to describe outbreaks, they said. 

‘Based on the limited available evidence, mask related acne and irritant contact dermatitis are the most common facial dermatoses associated with mask wearing.’

A cross sectional study of 833 medical school staff in Thailand helped inform some of this research, including healthcare and non-healthcare workers.

That study showed that 54 per cent of those in the study self-reported instances of adverse skin reactions to wearing surgical or cloth masks.

‘Typically, a patient presents with new onset facial eruption, or exacerbation of a pre-existing dermatosis that is most pronounced in the area covered by the mask,’ according to the team behind the BMJ article. 

Neck of a 23 year old man with folliculitis barbae. This is an inflammation of the hair follicles of the beard and is often caused by infection with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria

Contact dermatitis on a female patient’s eyelid caused by eye drops used to treat glaucoma. Contact dermatitis is a type of eczema caused either by a toxic reaction to a particular substance or by an allergic reaction

‘Ideally, such an assessment would take place in person, but video consultation provides an acceptable alternative.’

Examination should focus on the morphology of the eruption, the distribution, and whether it is present at sites other than the face, they explained. 

There are a number of conditions linked to mask wearing, and they can either exist without the mask but made worse by it, or by caused by the mask, the team found.

When a condition is made worse by a mask it is usually the result of the development of a warm, moist environment around the area the mask has been worn.   

Pustular acne on a young man’s face. Acne is a general name given to a skin disorder in which the sebaceous glands become inflamed. The most common form, acne vulgaris, begins in adolescence and is due to overactivity of the sebaceous glands

The team recommend ensuring the mask isn’t overly tight, taking breaks where possible, and using a wipe around the area of contact.

The most common condition they discovered was irritant contact dermatitis, a form of eczema caused by direct physical or chemical injury. 

It is associated with wearing masks for more than six hours and severity depends on the type of mask and length of exposure. 

It presents as discrete, dry, scaly patches. The main treatment is regular breaks from masks and a silicon backed dressing to protect the skin by creating a seal between it and the mask. 

Acne rosacea on the face of a 28 year old woman. This condition is a reddening of the skin of unknown cause, sometimes accompanied by pustules (pus-containing blisters) that resemble acne. One possible cause is overuse of corticosteroid creams

Other conditions include those caused by a hypersensitivity reaction to something in the mask, including rubber in elastic straps and wires used to mould it to the face.

This is best treated with a short, mild course of something like hydrocortisone ointment, the researchers explained in the letter written for doctors and specialists.

They also found instances of atopic eczema, which affects up to 30 per cent of children and 10 per cent of adults, made worse through mask wearing.

The doctors pointer letter is published in the British Medical Journal

TIPS FOR REDUCING THE RISK OF SKIN CONDITIONS FROM MASKS 

  • Cleanse skin with a gentle soap-free cleanser
  • Apply a light emollient at least 30 minutes before applying facial PPE
  • Apply a silicon based barrier tape to the nasal bridge and cheeks
  • Wipe skin under PPE with a silicon based barrier wipe to provide a film, protecting the skin from the harmful microenvironment
  • Take time to fit the mask and ensure it is not over tight
  • Take regular breaks from the mask (every one hour for respirators) to relieve the pressure and prevent moisture build up
  • Stay well hydrated
  • Maintain oral hygiene (teeth brushing twice daily and daily interdental flossing/brushing)
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Cosmic cartographers create stunning maps of the ‘nurseries’ where stars are born

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Astronomers have created a series of stunning maps showing the stellar nurseries where stars are born, revealing the diversity of galaxies throughout the Universe.  

Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), researchers completed the first census of molecular clouds in the nearby Universe.

Contrary to previous scientific opinion, these stellar nurseries do not all look and act the same, according to the team from Ohio State University.

In fact, they found that these cosmic nurseries were as diverse as the people, homes, neighbourhoods, and regions that make up our own world. 

This discovery is a big step forward in understanding the dark and violent places where stars are born, according to the team behind the observations. 

Finding that as well as being more diverse than previously expected, they are are shorter lived, up to 30 million years, and much less efficient at star formation. 

Astronomers have created a series of stunning maps showing the stellar nurseries where stars are born, revealing the diversity of galaxies throughout the Universe

NGC4254: Shown here as an ALMA (orange) composite with Hubble Space Telescope (red) data, NGC4254 was among the nearly 100 galaxies included in the recent PHANGS project census of galaxies in the nearby Universe

NGC1566. Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), researchers completed the first census of molecular clouds in the nearby Universe

HOW DO STARS FORMS?

Stars form from dense molecular clouds – of dust and gas – in regions of interstellar space known as stellar nurseries. 

A single molecular cloud, which primarily contains hydrogen atoms, can be thousands of times the mass of the sun. 

They undergo turbulent motion with the gas and dust moving over time, disturbing the atoms and molecules causing some regions to have more matter than other parts. 

If enough gas and dust come together in one area then it begins to collapse under the weight of its own gravity. 

As it begins to collapse it slowly gets hotter and expands outwards, taking in more of the surrounding gas and dust.

At this point, when the region is about 900 billion miles across, it becomes a pre-stellar core and the starting process of becoming a star. 

Then, over the next 50,000 years this will contract 92 billion miles across to become the inner core of a star. 

The excess material is ejected out towards the poles of the star and a disc of gas and dust is formed around the star, forming a proto-star. 

This is matter is then either incorporated into the star or expelled out into a wider disc that will lead to the formation of planets, moons, comets and asteroids.     

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Over the past five years, an international team of researchers, working with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory team, have surveyed ‘stellar nurseries.’

They looked at the star forming regions in our part of the Universe, charting over 100,000 nurseries in 90 nearby galaxies to provide insights into the origins of stars. 

‘Every star in the sky, including our own sun, was born in one of these stellar nurseries,’ said Adam Leroy, associate professor of astronomy at The Ohio State University and one of the leaders of the project.

‘These nurseries are responsible for building galaxies and making planets, and they’re just an essential part in the story of how we got here. 

‘But this is really the first time we have gotten a complete view of these stellar nurseries across the whole nearby universe.’

The project is called PHANGS-ALMA, and the research was possible thanks to the ALMA telescope array high in the Andes mountains in Chile.

ALMA, the most powerful radio telescope in the world, allowed the team to survey the stellar nurseries across a diverse set of galaxies, while previous studies had mostly focused only on an individual galaxy or a part of one galaxy.

‘When optical telescopes take pictures, they capture the light from stars. When ALMA takes a picture, it sees the glow from the gas and dust that will form stars,’ said Jiayi Sun, co-author from Ohio State.

‘The new thing with PHANGS-ALMA is that we can use ALMA to take pictures of many galaxies, and these pictures are as sharp and detailed as those taken by optical telescopes. This just hasn’t been possible before.’

The survey has expanded the amount of data on stellar nurseries by more than tenfold, Leroy said, giving astronomers a more accurate perspective of what these nurseries are like in our corner of the wider Universe. 

Over the past five years, an international team of researchers, working with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory team, have surveyed ‘stellar nurseries’

Based on these measurements, they have found that stellar nurseries are surprisingly diverse across galaxies, live only a relatively short time in astronomical terms, and are not very efficient at making stars.

The diversity of these stellar nurseries came as something of a surprise, as conventional wisdom was that they all looked ‘more or less the same.’ 

‘While there are some similarities, the nature and appearance of these nurseries change within and among galaxies, just like cities or trees may vary in important ways as you go from place to place across the world,’ said Sun.

During the PHANGS survey of nearly 100 galaxies in the nearby Universe, the team observed NGC4321, a galaxy featuring asymmetric morphology

NGC1385, a galaxy featuring pure flocculent disk morphology, was included in a survey that concluded that contrary to accepted scientific theory, not all stellar nurseries look or act the same

For example, nurseries in larger galaxies, and those in the centre of galaxies, tend to be denser and more massive, and much more turbulent, he said.  

‘So the properties of these nurseries and even their ability to make stars seem to depend on the galaxies they live in,’ Sun said.

Stellar nurseries live for up to 30 million years, a tiny amount of time on astronomical scales, and they are not very efficient at turning gas into stars.  

‘This survey is allowing us to build a much more complete picture of the life cycle of these regions, and we’re finding they are short-lived and inefficient,’ Leroy said.

NGC4535 is a galaxy in the nearby Universe featuring grand-design spiral plus stellar bar morphology

‘It’s not random chance destroying these nurseries, but the new stars that they make. They are very ungrateful children.’

Radiation and heat from young stars acts to disperse and dissolve the clouds that gave birth to them, destroying them before they can convert most of their mass.   

‘We have an incredible dataset here that will continue to be useful,’ Leroy said. ‘This is a new view of galaxies and we expect to be learning from it for years to come.’

After more than five years of observations, the survey was recently completed and summarised by the PHANGS-ALMA team in two recent papers accepted to the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series and available on arXiv.

WHAT IS ALMA?

Deep in the Chilean desert, the Atacama Large Millimetre Array, or ALMA, is located in one of the driest places on Earth.

At an altitude of 16,400ft, roughly half the cruising height of a jumbo jet and almost four times the height of Ben Nevis, workers had to carry oxygen tanks to complete its construction.

Switched on in March 2013, it is the world’s most powerful ground based telescope.

It is also the highest on the planet and, at almost £1 billion ($1.2 billion), one of the most expensive of its kind.

Deep in the Chilean desert, the Atacama Large Millimetre Array, or ALMA, is located in one of the driest places on Earth. Switched on in March 2013, it is the world’s most powerful ground based telescope

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Cockroaches could be steered remotely for search and rescue missions 

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Scientists have demonstrated how a live cockroach equipped with a computerised ‘backpack’ could be steered remotely for search and rescue missions.

The backpack, created by a team at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, is a small computer chip fitted with an infrared camera, carbon dioxide sensor and a temperature/humidity sensor, among other functions. 

In lab trials, the team fitted the backpack to a Madagascar hissing cockroach and successfully used it to find humans in a simulated disaster scene.

The cockroach fitted with the backpack also had electrodes implanted in its cerci – the protruding appendages on its left and right side. 

Electrical currents were delivered to the two cerci via the electrodes to induce turning, allowing the scientists to control the direction it moved in. 

When the left cercus was stimulated, the insect made a right turn – in a clockwise rotation – and vice versa. 

In this way, the scientists can essentially decide which direction the cockroach moves, akin to controlling a rowing boat with oars.  

In an impressive scientific feat, researchers from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have fitted backpacks to a cockroach to dictate the direction of its movement 

The cockroach still has control over whether its legs move, however – meaning the scientists don’t dictate whether it starts or stops. 

The system can navigate to predetermined destinations and autonomously traverse unknown obstacle-terrain, as well as detect human presence. 

According to the team, their technology – what they call an ‘insect-computer hybrid system’, or cyborg insect – is something of a first step towards fully robotic systems of a similar size to a cockroach.    

‘There is still a long way to go before artificial mini robots are really used for search and rescue missions in disaster-hit areas,’ the experts say in their paper.

‘[This is] due to hindrance in power consumption, computation load of the locomotion and obstacle-avoidance system. 

‘Insect-computer hybrid system, which is the fusion of living insect platform and microcontroller, emerges as an alternative solution.’ 

The computer chip backpacks include an infrared camera, carbon dioxide sensor and a temperature/humidity sensor, among other functions

Four electrodes in total are implanted into the insect’s cerci and third abdominal segment (right). The implants are then secured with beeswax (left). Researchers say: ‘Electrical stimulation is released by the backpack to the insects via these wires to control its locomotion’

In a search and rescue mission, such as a collapsed building, fast pinpointing of victims trapped in the wreckage is crucial to maximise their chance of survival. 

But the locations of the trapped victims are usually inaccessible to humans and can take several precious hours to determine. 

Currently, bulky equipment such as electronic cameras and seismic sensors are used to search through rubble, as well as sniffer dogs. 

Mini robots with dimensions of four inches (10cm) or less potentially have an advantage over such methods in increasing search efficiency by crawling through tight gaps. 

Cockroaches are also famously resilient and hard to kill with force – meaning they’d stand a good chance among the compact rubble. 

Researchers hope the cockroaches could help with the fast pinpointing of victims of structural collapse (stock image)

Electrical currents can be delivered to the two cerci via the electrodes to induce turning, allowing the scientists to control the direction they move in. When the left cercus was stimulated, the insect made a right turn – in a clockwise rotation – and vice versa

The research team say their cockroach fitted with its backpack had a 94 per cent success rate while finding humans in lab situations with tall obstacles, while high-accuracy human presence detection using infrared camera was also achieved.  

It could also operate for up to 2.2 hours using a 120 mAh battery, suitable for a practical urban search and rescue (USAR) mission. 

Researchers say they will adopt the technology for assisting USAR missions in disaster-hit areas in the near future. 

The team’s research paper, entitled, ‘Insect-Computer Hybrid System for Autonomous Search and Rescue Mission‘, has been published as a pre-print. 

Researchers at North Carolina State University have already worked with cockroaches fitted with backpacks that locate the sources of sound in emergency situations. 

The researchers also developed technology that can be used as an ‘invisible fence’ to keep the biobots in the disaster area. 

CYBORG ROACHES COULD HELP IN DISASTERS BY DETECTING SOUND

 In 2014, researchers fitted cockroaches with electrical backpacks complete with tiny microphones to detect the faintest of sounds.

The idea is that cyborg cockroaches, or ‘biobots’, could enter crumpled buildings hit by earthquakes, for example, and help emergency workers find survivors.

‘In a collapsed building, sound is the best way to find survivors,’ said Alper Bozkurt, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at North Carolina State University.

‘The goal is to use the biobots with high-resolution microphones to differentiate between sounds that matter – like people calling for help – from sounds that don’t matter – like a leaking pipe.

‘Once we’ve identified sounds that matter, we can use the biobots equipped with microphone arrays to zero-in on where those sounds are coming from.’

The ‘backpacks’ control the robo-roach’s movements because they are wired to the insect’s cerci – sensory organs that cockroaches usually use to feel if their abdomens brush against something.

By electrically stimulating the cerci, cockroaches can be prompted to move in a certain direction.

In fact, they have been programmed to seek out sound.

One type of ‘backpack’ is equipped with an array of three directional microphones to detect the direction of the sound and steer the biobot in the right direction towards it.

Another type is fitted with a single microphone to capture sound from any direction, which can be wirelessly transmitted – perhaps in the future to emergency workers.

They ‘worked well’ in lab tests and the experts have developed technology that can be used as an ‘invisible fence’ to keep the biobots in a certain area such as a disaster area.  

This is significant because it can be used to keep the biobots within range of each other so that they can be used as a reliable mobile wireless network. 

This technology could also be used to steer biobots to light sources, so that the miniaturised solar panels on biobot backpacks can be recharged.

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Space travel weakens immune system and scientists have figured out why 

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By and large, astronauts have generally had to deal with being sick after returning to Earth, with space travel negatively impacting their immune systems.

Now, scientists have figured out why.

A new study, published in Nature Scientific Reports, notes that T regular cells (Tregs) experience an ‘abnormal activation’ during space travel. 

Tregs are generally activated to clamp down immune responses after an infection is no longer a threat, but in the weak gravity [microgravity] conditions of space, the opposite happens — Tregs are activated even when there is no infection present.  

The researchers simulated an immune response, putting a chemical that has been used to mimic a disease pathogen into blood samples, ultimately finding the Tregs started to activate.

‘Remarkably, we found that [simulated microgravity] enhanced STAT5 signaling responses of immunosuppressive Tregs,’ the researchers wrote in the study’s abstract. ‘Our results suggest [microgravity] exerts a dual effect on the human immune system, simultaneously dampening cytotoxic responses while enhancing Treg function.’    

‘Early in the space program, most astronauts were young and extremely healthy, but now they tend to have much more training and are older,’ the study’s lead author, Jordan Spatz, PhD, a space scientist and University of California San Francisco medical student, said in a statement

‘In addition, apart from astronauts, with the commercialization of space flight there will be many more older and less healthy individuals experiencing microgravity,’ Spatz continued. ‘From a space medical perspective, we see that microgravity does a lot of bad things to the human body, and we are hoping to gain the ability to mitigate some of the effects of microgravity during space travel.’

Astronauts suffer a weakened immune system after returning to Earth because of ‘abnormally’ active T regular cells

The researchers simulated an immune response, putting a chemical used to mimic a disease pathogen into blood samples and found the Tregs started to activate

The new research continues that from Millie Hughes-Fulford, one of the first women astronauts. Hughes-Fulford studied the impact of microgravity on health, prior to her death in February 2021

Spatz’s work continues that from Millie Hughes-Fulford, one of the first women astronauts. 

Hughes-Fulford studied the impact of microgravity on health, prior to her death in February 2021, after losing a bout with leukemia. 

A number of Apollo astronauts experienced colds or other infections, with several of them experiencing a re-activation of dormant viruses, such as the chickenpox.

Early Apollo astronauts experienced other impairments, such as inner ear disturbances, heart arrhythmia, low blood pressure, dehydration and loss of calcium in their bones. 

After Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin returned to Earth, they quarantined for three weeks for fears they would bring pathogens back from the moon.

DailyMail.com has reached out to NASA with a request for comment on this study. 

In March 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Aldrin recounted his time during quarantine, tweeting that he spent his time writing mission reports, conducting debriefs and exercising.

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin tweeted that he had to quarantine after returning from the moon after concerns he and the other astronauts would bring back pathogens from the moon

‘It’s a double whammy,’ said the study’s co-author, Brice Gaudilliere, MD, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Anesthesia at Stanford University School of Medicine. ‘There is a dampening of T lymphocyte immune activation responses, but also an exacerbation of immunosuppressive responses by Tregs.’    

The study’s findings comes right after the nascent space tourism has begun to take shape and concerns over the health of space travelers makes its way into society’s lexicon.

On Monday, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos announced that he and his brother, Mark, will fly to the edge of space next month, beating rivals Richard Branson and Elon Musk to the punch. 

Separately, the bid to be the first paying customer on Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft topped $3 million on Monday, with the auction set to end later this month.

Six passengers, including Bezos and his brother, will spend at least 10 minutes floating in zero gravity, before returning to Earth on the July 20 flight. 

The space tourism industry is expected to be worth $23 billion by 2030, CNBC reported in 2019, citing research from investment bank UBS.

HOW DID SCOTT KELLY’S DNA CHANGE IN SPACE? 

Astronauts suffer mysterious mutations in their DNA after spending just a year in space, and this could help reverse key ageing processes.

This is according to the first results of NASAs ground-breaking ‘Twins Study’ which looked at difference between astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly.

While Scott Kelly lived aboard the International Space Station for 340 days, his identical twin, Mark, remained on Earth.

Scott Kelly (right), who lived aboard the International Space Station for 340 days, is pictured alongside his identical twin brother Mark (left) who remained on Earth

Among the many findings, the study has so far revealed that:

  • Scott’s telomeres – the caps at the end of each chromosome – lengthened while in space
  • Telomeres are key to protecting DNA from damage and tend to shorten with age
  • Interestingly, Scott’s telomeres shortened again once he was back on Earth
  • Nasa say that Scott’s lengthening telomeres are linked with his diet and exercise routine on the station
  • The ratio of two groups of gut bacteria shifted while Scott was in space, likely due to his change in diet
  • His gut bacteria levels returned to normal once he was back on Earth.
  • Nasa research has spotted hundreds of diverging genetic mutations in Scott and Mark’s genomes.
  • The research team speculate that a ‘space gene’ could have been activated while Scott was in orbit
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