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The Warsaw Voice » Other » June 17, 2009
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June 17, 2009   
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New Discoveries at Zamo뜻 Stronghold
Archeologists have unearthed further parts of a 16th-century stronghold in Zamo뜻, southeastern Poland. Structures preserved in the ground include a fortified gun emplacement called a casemate, an entrance to the bastion, and part of the walls of the stronghold's first level, known as a defensive traverse, with places for shooters.

The find is in good condition, especially the lowest-lying casemate, which has survived complete with the walls and ceiling. The upper parts of the first bastion have survived in vestigial form, showing just the outline and layout of the rooms.

The stronghold's second bastion is being investigated as well. This structure lies close to the previous find. Here, archeologists have identified the wall of the bastion's eastern flank.

The Zamo뜻 stronghold was built and fortified from 1580 onward. It ceased to exist 250 years later, when the Russian czar decreed its demolition and most of the fortifications were blown up.

The ongoing archeological work in Zamo뜻 is a preparatory stage of a long-term investment program called "Zamo뜻-A UNESCO Town and a Historical Monument of Poland."

Ancient Megalith Uncovered
In the village of Kowal, Kujawy-Pomerania province, archeologists from the Institute of Archeology of the Nicolas Copernicus University in Toru have discovered a complex of Neolithic religious objects from a period known as globular amphora culture (2700-2000 B.C.). These include a megalith and a human grave.

The university's Grzegorz Osipowicz, Ph.D., manager of the dig, says the complex includes a megalithic structure, a human grave, and an animal burial site with an accompanying hearth. The megalithic structure was built of stones over half a meter in diameter and weighing up to 300 kg. Some of the stones carry traces of having been carved. They were placed in the shape of a rectangle or elongated trapezoid, with small pebbles acting as a stabilizing base for larger stones. In the structure, which is oriented along an east-west axis, the eastern parts were partially destroyed at a later date.

The two identified levels of cobblestone paving-at a depth of about 0.5 m and at about 1 m under the level of the megalithic stones-are built of small stones up to 20 cm in diameter.

The megalithic structure was accompanied by a large amount of historical objects, including over 2,000 ceramic pieces and one whole vessel, 40 flint items, abrasive slabs, stone grinders, and a piece of a stone with traces of smoothing.

The complex also included a human grave located right next to the megalith. The oval burial hole, surrounded by a stone guard of pebbles 10-20 cm in diameter placed every 20-60 cm, contained a well-preserved male skeleton lying on its left side. The skeleton's legs were pulled up, while the arms may have been crossed on the chest, the scientists suspect. The burial hole also contained pieces of a pig skeleton, including the mandible and shinbones.

Other items included three ceramic vessels, a small T-shaped shield, a tool made from a wild boar's tusk, and a few bone objects, including a spindle-shaped blade, a piercing instrument, a chisel, and a piece of a smoothed tool. The archeologists also found a striped-flint ax, a chocolate-flint chip, a stone grinder, and a lump of ocher, a mineral used as a red dye.

An animal burial site with a hearth was discovered west of the megalith. In the eastern part of the area, the burned matter formed a kind of antechamber that contained a large amphora. Exploration of the site led to the discovery of the remains of three cows. The animals, laid in a space delineated by a guard of loosely lying small stones, had been placed there with a ceramic vessel.

Ultrasound Tomography for Early Cancer Detection
Scientists from the Wroc쿪w University of Technology have developed a technology allowing for early detection of pathological changes in biological tissues and identification of malignant tumors.

The method, defined as ultrasound transmission tomography (UTT) for early detection of pathological changes in the female breast, is credited to Tadeusz Gudra, Krzysztof J. Opieliski and Juliusz S. Bednarek from the Institute of Telecommunications, Teleinformatics and Acoustics in Wroc쿪w.

The new method significantly improves the resolution of ultrasonographic images thanks to detailed measurements of different acoustic parameters.

The method has been developed mainly for early diagnosis of cancer in women's breasts, without any age limitation.

Despite significant progress in UTT research around the world, ultrasound transmission tomography scanners have yet to enter mass production, the scientists say. The Wroc쿪w researchers have launched a testing station and are also working to build a prototype ultrasound scanner for examining women's breasts.

According to the researchers, their method could also be used in industry for non-destructive testing of hardened surfaces and subsurface structures.

Diagnosing Genetic Predisposition to Disease
The DNA Research Center in the western city of Pozna has developed an innovative method for diagnosing genetic predisposition to disease.

The center is the first facility in Poland to offer commercial diagnostic tests based on DNA microarrays. The name denotes glass or plastic slides with deposited thousands of probes in specified positions, each one specific for a single gene.

Studying the relationships between the probes and genes allows scientists to find out what is going on in a cell. Observing these relationships, they can tell which genes are active in a healthy cell and then compare these data with corresponding data obtained for a sick cell.

According to the center's Micha Kaszuba, the method allows pathogenic mechanisms to be identified and the risk of the development of genetically based diseases to be assessed. The method allows practically the entire genome to be analyzed during just one experiment, Kaszuba says. The technique makes it possible to come up with an accurate diagnosis early on, and thus adapt the type of treatment to the needs of individual patients.

The DNA Research Center offers diagnostic tests for diseases such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and cystic fibrosis.

The DNA Research Center was set up in 2006 by two scientists dealing with biotechnology. An advanced research center specializing in genetic research and DNA analysis, the facility is located within the Pozna Science and Technology Park.

Safer Coronary Stents
Scientists from the Biomedical Engineering Laboratory of the Chemical and Process Engineering Department of the Warsaw University of Technology are working to improve coronary stents used in people with heart diseases.

A stent is a small metal tube that is inserted permanently into an artery. The stent helps hold open the artery so that blood can flow through it.

New-generation polymers used in stents release drugs and are built similarly to the natural lining of a blood vessel. This minimizes the probability of reclosure of the vessel at the stent site.

Cardiovascular complications are the number one killer in developed societies. Their main cause is a narrowing of the heart's blood vessels. The most popular method of treatment today is to place a stent implant in the narrowing of the blood vessel.

Coronary stents that release drugs treating coronary thrombosis have been available on the Polish market for a few years. The Warsaw team launched them in 2005 and is now working to improve them.

A stent looks like a ball-point pen spring. When it is being implanted it is put over a balloon placed at the end of a long catheter that is introduced through the artery. When the stent reaches the narrowing, the balloon is filled with Ringer's solution under pressure, which expands the spring and the blocked artery. The expanded stent is left there, while the catheter and the balloon are removed. This improves the flow of blood to the heart.

In about 20 percent of patients, however, restenosis (reclosure) occurs at the location of the "bare" steel mesh of the stent. To prevent this, the stent is coated with a polymer layer that releases medication stopping the stent site from reclosing. These are most often medications recommended in cancer as well, as they block cell divisions.

The scientists are working on using new-generation polymers that will not have a negative impact on the artery walls, making the stents even safer.

Parallel to research on new polymers, the Biomedical Engineering Laboratory, together with the Medical University of Warsaw, is working on a new drug to prevent restenosis without slowing down the natural healing of artery walls.

Bio-preparations from Eggs
Scientists in Wroc쿪w are researching bioactive substances contained in eggs. Such compounds, treated as dietary supplements, could be helpful in preventing lifestyle diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disorders and dementia. The project is being carried out by a scientific consortium that includes Wroc쿪w's University of Environmental and Life Sciences and the city's Medical University.

"The aim is to launch innovative products made from new-generation eggs, including biomedical preparations and dietary supplements preventing lifestyle diseases," says Prof. Tadeusz Trziszka from the Food Science Department of the Wroc쿪w University of Environmental and Life Sciences, who heads the project.

Eggs are an ideal raw material for the production of different bio-preparations. They contain vitamins A, B and E as well as phospholipids, including lecithin, which is good for the memory. Cystatin is a valuable compound found in egg whites; it fights microorganisms and pathogenic fungi attacking the skin. It also has cancer-preventing properties.

"The egg white contains minimal amounts of different kinds of proteins which have strong bioactive properties," Trziszka says. "We are thinking of transferring them to microorganisms to produce identical proteins through recombination; this would be biotechnology utilizing microorganisms."

The scientists also plan to conduct research aimed at obtaining proline peptides from egg yolks. These are protein compounds that could be used in preventing dementia, for example Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

Research on new-generation eggs will be conducted at certified chicken and quail farms. The birds will receive special feed, such as algae, selenium yeast, freshly pressed oil from oleaginous plants, and peat preparations. This set of supplements will help produce eggs much richer in vitamins and polyunsaturated acids.

The project, financed from European Union funds, is scheduled to end in four years.

Compiled by Tadeusz Belerski
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