Agriculture Robot

DOT, an autonomous agriculture robot in Maricopa County. 

With a major research university right in our backyard, a strong military presence and innovative companies spread throughout the metro region, there’s often a plethora of interesting science and technology news to be found in Southern Arizona. Here’s a breakdown of the most interesting recent developments:

The Red Planet Gets Redder. Last year, NASA suggested liquid water is present beneath the southern polar ice cap of Mars. In response, the American Geophysical Union recently released a new study arguing there needs to be an underground source of heat for liquid water to exist underneath the polar ice cap. Two scientists from the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, Michael Sori and Ali Bramson, are co-lead authors of the new paper. They suggest “recent magmatic activity—the formation of a magma chamber within the past few hundred thousand years—must have occurred underneath the surface of Mars for there to be enough heat to produce liquid water underneath the thick ice cap.” In turn, they argue if there was not recent volcanic activity, there most likely isn’t water on Mars. 

Diabetes Drug May Fight Heart Failure. Metformin, a drug commonly used to treat Type 2 Diabetes, may also treat heart failure, according to a study in the Journal of General Physiology co-authored by researchers at the University of Arizona. Nearly half of all heart failure patients have “heart failure with preserved ejection fraction,” or HFpEF, a condition where the heart properly contracts, but fails to fully relax between beats, reducing the heart’s capacity to fill with blood. Due to metformin’s ability to increase ventricular dilation and lower the rate of heart failure in diabetes patients, researchers gave metformin to mice with HFpEF symptoms and found “the drug reduced left ventricular stiffness, thereby improving the animals’ capacity for exercise.” 

Tucson’s New Defense Research Corporation. Last month, the UA launched a new research corporation focused on “solving complex national security problems.” Titled the University of Arizona Applied Research Corp., or UA-ARC, this new research institute will use the university’s existing research in the fields of optics, hypersonics, quantum information science, artificial intelligence, cyber-security and aerospace engineering to fight complex problems the nation faces. 

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