Measles may weaken immune system up to three years

Measles vaccination

Measles may weaken immune system up to three years. PHOTO BY SHUTTERSTOCK

THE MEASLES VIRUS can lead to serious disease in children by suppressing their immune systems for up to three years, according to a study published in the journal Science on May 8, 2015. The study provides evidence that measles may throw the body into a much longer-term state of “immune amnesia,” where essential memory cells that protect the body against infectious diseases are partially wiped out. This vulnerability was previously thought to last a month or two.

“We already knew that measles attacks immune memory, and that it was immunosuppressive for a short amount of time. But this paper suggests that immune suppression lasts much longer than previously suspected,” said C. Jessica Metcalf, co-author and assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and public affairs, who is affiliated with Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

The research findings suggest that — apart from the major direct benefits — measles vaccination may also provide indirect immunological protection against other infectious diseases.

The work was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Science and Technology Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security, and the Research and Policy for Infectious Disease Dynamics (RAPIDD) Program of the National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center.

–By B. Rose Huber

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Son-o-MERMAID takes to the waters

Son-o-MERMAID

Son-o-MERMAID takes to the waters. PHOTO BY FREDERIK SIMONS

SEISMIC WAVES CAUSED BY EARTHQUAKES can tell us a lot about the makeup of the Earth’s crust and mantle. Yet we lack seismic readings from the regions under the world’s oceans, which cover 70 percent of the planet’s surface. To address this data gap, Associate Professor of Geosciences Frederik Simons and colleagues developed ocean-going autonomous buoys called MERMAIDs (Mobile Earthquake Recording in Marine Areas by Independent Divers) and, in a paper published on Aug. 20, 2015, in Nature Communications, reported that the divers can recognize earthquakes and transmit seismograms more or less in real time.

The divers are equipped with a hydrophone to detect acoustic signals generated by seismic waves. The MERMAID drifts as deep as 2,000 meters under the surface until it detects an earthquake. Then it ascends to transmit the recorded waveform and its GPS position.

Simons and colleagues at the University of Rhode Island are now working on the next-generation buoy, which they call Son-o-MERMAID. After its maiden voyage three years ago was disrupted by Hurricane Sandy, the float is once again being tested and will be ready for deployment in the next few months. Compared to its progenitor, the new float has better position awareness and real-time communication capabilities because part of the instrument is always above water, and, in addition to batteries, has solar panels that power a vertical array of hydrophones.

The research is supported by the A.H. Phillips Instrument Fund at Princeton University and by the National Science Foundation.

–By Catherine Zandonella

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Energy and environment center opens its doors

Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment

Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment PHOTO BY DENISE APPLEWHITE

WITH CONSTRUCTION ESSENTIALLY COMPLETE, researchers are moving into the new home of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, a 129,000-square-foot complex dedicated to research and teaching in areas involving energy efficiency, sustainable sources of energy, and environmental protection and remediation.

Located adjacent to the School of Engineering and Applied Science’s “EQuad,” the building is organized around multiple gardens and two large towers. The building holds a classroom and teaching laboratories, office space, a lecture hall, conference rooms, and research labs, including “cleanrooms” that have ultra-low dust levels and shared-use labs that house some of the world’s most sophisticated imaging and analytical equipment.

Emily Carter, the Gerhard R. Andlinger Professor in Energy and the Environment and founding director of the center, described it as a “living laboratory, both as it was being built and upon occupancy.”

The Andlinger Center translates fundamental knowledge into practical solutions that enable sustainable energy production and the protection of the environment and global climate from energyrelated anthropogenic change. The center was founded in July 2008 through a gift from international business leader Gerhard R. Andlinger, Class of 1952.

–By John Sullivan

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Elusive particles found

IN THE PAST YEAR, PRINCETON PHYSICISTS have detected two particles that were predicted decades ago to exist but had not been found until now. Both particles were detected using a scanning-tunneling microscope to image the particles inside a crystal. The particles may someday enable powerful computers based on quantum mechanics.

A team led by Ali Yazdani, the Class of 1909 Professor of Physics, detected the “Majorana fermion,” which behaves simultaneously like matter and antimatter and was first proposed in 1937 by Italian physicist Ettore Majorana. The team, which received funding from the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research, included B. Andrei Bernevig, an associate professor of physics, and other colleagues at Princeton and at the University of Texas-Austin. They published their results in the Oct. 2, 2014, issue of the journal Science.

A few months later, an international team led by M. Zahid Hasan, professor of physics, detected another elusive particle, the “Weyl fermion,” first theorized by the mathematician and physicist Hermann Weyl in 1929. The particle is massless and can also behave like matter and antimatter. The research team, which received support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy, published their work in Science on July 16, 2015.

–By Steven Schultz and Morgan Kelly

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Princeton-Fung Global Forum focuses on global health

IN NOVEMBER, the annual Princeton-Fung Global Forum brought health experts together in Dublin to address the emergence of new diseases and challenges in an increasingly connected world. Case studies of “modern plagues,” including the Ebola crisis, framed the conversation among speakers, panelists and attendees from academia, government and nongovernmental sectors, the media, and the public. Among the conclusions: confronting the emergence of new diseases requires a multidisciplinary approach involving not only public health and medical knowledge but also an understanding of a disease’s economic, environmental, political and historical roots.

The Princeton-Fung Global Forum is a series of meetings that Princeton hosts with the help of a generous gift from 1970 alumnus William Fung.

–By Elisabeth Donahue

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