Showing posts with label 12 Days Xmas Countdown. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 12 Days Xmas Countdown. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 12 Days Xmas Countdown. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 12 Days Xmas Countdown. Show all posts

Thursday, December 24, 2015

12 DAYS CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN: SANTA'S SLEIGH

Today's final post in the series will be on the science behind Santa's sleigh. Scientists at the North Carolina State University have analyzed and researched how Santa is using the latest scientific resources and technologies on his sleigh (that aren't scientifically available to us yet) to deliver everyone's Christmas presents.




To deliver all the presents on time Santa's sleigh has to be a million times more advanced than any modern form of air transportation. The truss of the sleigh, including the runners, are made of a honeycombed titanium alloy that is very lightweight and 10 to 20 times stronger than anything that exists or that's being worked on in labs today. But it doesn't just stop there.... 


The truss can also morph, changing its shape slightly to improve its aerodynamics – allowing it to cut through the air more efficiently. The runners on the sleigh, for example, are a little bit flexible; this allows the runners to be tucked in to be more aerodynamic during flight, and then spread out to provide stability for landing on different surfaces – including various roofs around the world - no matter how step they are.

The sleigh also has the most advanced electronics which includes  laser sensors that can detect upcoming thermals and wind conditions to find the optimal path. This makes the flight smoother and more energy efficient and, as all aerospace engineers know, efficiency is essential.

Since the ride has to be smooth and effcient, the sleigh has been developed with a a nanostructured “skin” for the sleigh that is porous and contains its own low-pressure system, which holds the air flowing around the airborne sled onto the body, reducing drag by as much as 90 percent.
This post was written by the scientists at NC State University (original post below) who have been trying to get their head around these impossible aerodynamic features of Santa's sleigh.

- Merry Christmas!!

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

12 DAYS CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN: EGGNOG

It's the day before Christmas eve, so Christmas preparations are well under way. Who will be making homemade eggnog this holiday season? And will you be "spiking" it? If you will, beware of the risk of salmonella in raw eggs. 



With a statistic of 1/20000 eggs is contaminated with salmonella bacteria drinking homemade eggnog can be a bit of a hefty risk. Scientists at Rockefeller University conducted an experiment on eggnog and spiked eggnog (with alcohol added to it = 20 percent rum and bourbon) to compare the bacteria found in homemade alcoholic eggnog with those found in store-bought nonalcoholic eggnog. After culturing samples of both solutions and incubating them for 24 hours at 37 degrees Celsius (body temperature), The researchers found that while the store-bought product was brimming with a variety of bacteria, the homemade version was completely sterile.

“The bacteria we observed in the grocery-store product are likely harmless normal bacteria that are found in all dairy products,” says Fischetti, who is head of the Laboratory of Bacterial Pathogenesis and Immunology. “In fact, they were probably in the cream and other products we used when we made our eggnog but were killed by the alcohol.”
When the scientists repeated the same experiment, but with a large dose of Salmonella bacteria, the results were indecisive. “In our 24-hour time frame, the alcohol in the eggnog did not kill all the bacteria, but we used 1,000 times more Salmonella than what you might encounter in a contaminated egg,” Fischetti says. 
To have definite results,the scientists would have needed to repeat the same experiment but with more realistic conditions.  


References: 
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081227223340.htm

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

12 DAYS CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN: CANDY CANES

Today's post is based around candy canes - but not candy canes exactly, more like Christmas sweets including licorice. Scientists have found that a novel molecule extracted from licorice root has the ability to stop some cancers immediately, according to a collaborative research study conducted at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. 





Mohamed Rafi, assistant professor in the department of food science at Rutgers' Cook College, discovered the new molecule, ß-hydroxy-DHP (BHP), in common dietary supplements made from licorice root, a natural remedy with curative powers which have gone down in history. Rafi tested the compound in the laboratory on tissues taken from prostate and breast cancer tumors.

The small and very specific molecule BHP belongs to a class of organic chemicals known as polyphenols that include potential anticancer compounds found in green tea and wine; its main target is cancer cells. It works by deactivating a protein associated with tumor cells known to encourage cell growth and multiplication- a characteristic of cancer. 

The paper which reported this discovery was first published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry by Rafi and his colleagues. This research was published officially in 2003.  

The natural medicinal qualities of licorice were known and used throughout the years and have gone down in history, from the Ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese and Hindus recognized the natural medicinal qualities of licorice. Tutankhamen was even buried with licorice root. Chinese medicine, today, even uses licorice to manage some cancers. However, the cancer-preventing qualities of licorice root have remained a mystery until Rafi's discovery in 2003.






References:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/12/031223061945.htm

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Monday, December 21, 2015

12 DAYS CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN: WALNUTS

Today's post will be on walnuts. Walnuts also constitute a part of the Christmas platter and they're also good for you. Most of the health benefits of walnuts are known already but scientists have found one more to add to the list: lowering of diabetes and heart disease risk in "at-risk" patients. 



The research was published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, the Official Publication of the American College of Nutrition, and a publication from Routledge.

For the study, a sample of 46 adults aged 30-75 were selected. Participants had a Body Mass Index larger than 25, and a waist circumference exceeding 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women. They were also required to be non-smokers, and all exhibited one or more additional risk factors for metabolic syndrome, a precursor of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The group was randomly assigned to two 8-week sequences of either a walnut-enriched ad libitum diet or an ad libitum diet without walnuts. Those chosen for the walnut diet were instructed to consume 56g of shelled, unroasted English walnuts per day as a snack or with a meal. 

The study results found that a daily intake of 56g of walnuts improves endothelial function in overweight adults with visceral adiposity. The addition of walnuts to the diet did not lead to weight gain. Although there still needs to be more research on this topic in the future.

Walnuts don't have as many calories as you thought... 

Walnuts, even thought they're good for you carry a lot of calories and could be fattening, but it turns out, thanks to a new study, that walnuts actually have 21% less calories than previously thought! 

The researchers  with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service found that a typical 28-gram serving actually contains 146 calories, 21 percent fewer than the 185 calories currently assigned by the USDA.  The study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, was partially funded by the California Walnut Commission.


References:


  1. Taylor & Francis. "Walnuts in diet can improve endothelial functions for overweight adults." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130923101947.htm>
  2. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130923101947.htm
  3. http://scienceblog.com/479775/walnuts-have-fewer-calories-than-the-label-suggests/#poJsc1PGSi4wGmlQ.97

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

12 DAYS CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN: BAUBLES

Every year baubles get more innovative from your typical gold and sliver baubles to solar system themed baubles and finally gold and silver nano-baubles.



The nano-baubles produced by researchers, in Mexico and the US, are about 100 million times smaller than the typical baubles which are used to decorate Christmas trees.

The research was published December 2010 issue of the International Journal of Nanoparticles, where the scientists reported the formation of various sliver, gold and bimetallic nanoparticles which are only 25 nanometres in diameter. 

They utilized vitamin C (a.k.a ascorbic acid) and a soap like antiseptic which is usually used in high-end cosmetics. The reaction of silver nitrate and the gold compound chloroauric acid under these conditions led to successive reduction of the metals and the formation of different silver, gold and bimetallic nanoparticles. The precise structures of the nanoparticles were revealed using a high-resolution elemental mapping technique. The analysis shows the nanoparticles to have multiple layers, shells of gold within silver within gold, in the case of the bimetallic particles and some blending, or alloying, of the metals occurred.

Nanoparticles shape a larger part of researchers interests because nanoparticles can be used for a variety of things:

  1. Act as catalysts to speed up the rates of chemical reactions
  2. Act as novel drug-deliver agents in the body
  3. Act as quantum dots for analytical applications
  4. May be used in the fabrication of the components of future electronics devices beyond the silicon chip
Bimetallic nanoparticles are also really intriguing because of their structure, composition and very very very small size. This means they are able to have even more intriguing chemical, electronic and optical properties than single-metal nanoparticles. 

Gold and silver nanoparticles are particularly useful as their optical effects occur at visible wavelengths of light. The researchers added that if it were possible to fine-tune the combination of gold and silver in the same nanoparticles then it might also be possible to tune the optical properties of such particles.



References

1-http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101203141935.htm

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

12 DAYS CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN: CITRUS FRUITS

Citrus fruits (including oranges, clementines, satsumas, lemons and limes) are best in season around Christmas time. But citrus fruits are not only delicious but they've also been proven to lower women's stroke risk, especially oranges and grapefruit, may lower ischemic stroke risk. 



The research published in the journal Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association looked at how consuming flavones subclasses affects the risk of stroke. Flavonoids are a class of compounds present in fruits, vegetables, dark chocolate and red wine. Women who ate high amounts of the flavonoids had a 19 percent lower risk of ischemic stroke than women who consumed the least amount.

Within their experiment, the flavanones came mainly from oranges and orange juice (82 percent) and grapefruit and grapefruit juice (14 percent). However, researchers recommended that consumers increase their citrus fruit intake, rather than juice, due to the high sugar content of commercial fruit juices.

The National Institutes of Health (USA) funded the research. However the scientists still need to research flavone consumption and its association with stroke risk, to further gain a better understanding about why the association occurs, the authors said.


References:
1- http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120223182638.htm

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Friday, December 18, 2015

12 DAYS CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN: CRANBERRIES

Working through the Christmas platter, today's post will be on cranberries. Scientists have been researching the antibiotic properties of cranberries. Particularly, they are shedding light on the biological mechanisms by which cranberries may have protective properties against urinary tract and other infections.





In 2011, a study was published in the journal Food Science and Biotechnology, where they tested proanthocyanidins (a.k.a PACs), a group of flavonoids which are found in cranberries. These molecules are thought to give cranberry juice its infection-fighting properties and prevent precursors of bacterial infections. But the scientific report actually showed that cranberry juice, itself, is far better at preventing biofilm formation, which is the precursor of infection, than PACs alone.
Camesano's lab explores the mechanisms that the virulent form of E. coli bacteria, the primary cause of most urinary tract infections (UTIs) in people, uses to form biofilms. This strain of E. coli is covered with small hair-like projections known as fimbriae that act like hooks and latch onto cells that line the urinary tract. When enough of the virulent bacteria adhere to cells, they form a biofilm and cause an infection. Previous work by Camesano's lab has shown that exposure to cranberry juice causes the fimbriae on E. coli to curl up, reducing their ability to attach to urinary tract cells. 
They incubated two different strains of E.coli in  two different mixtures of cranberry juice cocktails (commercially bought cranberry juice). The researchers also incubated E.coli separately in the presence of PACs, but not juice. Even though the juice cultures completely prevented biofilm formation, the PACs showed only limited ability to reduce biofilm formation, and only after extended exposure to the E. coli.

Further research...
Results published online, in 2013, in the Canadian Journal of Microbiology by Prof. Tufenkji and her team have reported that cranberry powder can inhibit the ability of Proteus mirabilis (a bacterium which is regularly found in complicated UTIs) to swarm on agar plates and swim within the agar. When they increased the concentrations of cranberry powder, they were able to reduce the bacteria's production of urease, an enzyme that contributes to the virulence of infections.

These results come after previous results gained by McGill lab, showing that cranberry derivatives are able to hinder movement of other bacteria involved in UTIs. Via a genome-wide analysis of an uropathogenic E. coli, the researchers revealed that expression of the gene that encodes for the bacteria's flagellar filament was decreased in the presence of cranberry PACs.
These findings are very important because the way a bacterium moves is the essential mechanism for the spread of infection; since infectious bacteria literally swim to spread in the urinary tract and to escape the host immune response.

Continuing their work, Tufenkji and her team, in collaboration with McGill professor Showan Nazhat, a biomaterials expert at the Department of Mining and Materials Engineering, found that cranberry-enriched silicone substrates disabled the spread of Proteus mirabilis. Published in the journal Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces, point to potential use for cranberry derivatives to hinder the spread of germs in implantable medical devices such as catheters, which are frequently implicated in UTIs.


References:

1- http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111028103725.htm
2- http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130715114654.htm

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

12 DAYS CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN: BRUSSELS SPROUTS

With Christmas being next week everyone will be buying their groceries for Christmas dinner, and Brussels sprouts are bound to be on some of your shopping lists - but they may not be your kids favourite veggies and here's why...



Scientists have published new research in the open access journal BMC Neuroscience. They've compared how domestic cats and humans perceive bitterness in food at a molecular level, and could explain why cats and children are sometimes such picky eaters.
It's thought that the ability to detect bitter chemicals is thought to have evolved because of its utility in avoiding toxic compounds often found in plants.  Cats are carnivores by nature so they don't consume a lot of plant-derived products; domestic cats, though, still come across bitter flavours in foods and medicines. 

The researchers at AFB International and Integral Molecular studied the behavior of two different cat bitter taste receptors in cell-based experiments, investigating their responsiveness to bitter compounds, and comparing these to the human versions of these receptors.

A receptor labeled as TAS2R38 is a bitter taste receptor in humans of which some people have 'supertaster' variants that give them an extreme sensitivity to bitter compounds, which could explain why children and some adults hate brussels sprouts and other vegetables. Comparing the cat version of the taste receptor with the human TAS2R38 receptor, they found that the cat taste receptor less sensitive to key bitter compounds. 

So, sometimes it's not that kids are fussy or that some people are fussy eaters, it just that some people taste receptors are much more sensitive to certain flavours, including brussels sprouts.

References:
  1. Michelle M Sandau, Jason R Goodman, Anu Thomas, Joseph B Rucker, Nancy E Rawson. A functional comparison of the domestic cat bitter receptors Tas2r38 and Tas2r43 with their human orthologsBMC Neuroscience, 2015; 16 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s12868-015-0170-6
2. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070517100315.htm

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

12 DAYS CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN: FRANKINCENSE

Yesterday's post looked at Myrrh as a form of herbal remedy for high cholesterol levels in the body. Today's post moves onto frankincense which has also been found to have useful properties. Cardiff university (Wales, UK) scientists have been researching the potential benefits of frankincense to help relieve and alleviate the symptoms of arthritis (this research was published in 2011).

Scientists at Cardiff university have devised a treatment using a rare form of frankincense, Boswellia frereana, which inhibits the production of key inflammatory molecules which helps prevent the breakdown of the cartilage tissue which causes the condition.
The scientists commented on their results saying: "Having done this we are now able to further characterize the chemical entity and compare its success against other anti-inflammatory drugs used for treating the condition."
The hunt for new drugs to cure the symptoms of conditions like inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis is a priority area for researchers around the world. the Researchers at Cardiff university have been able to use innovative chemical extraction techniques to determine the active ingredient in frankincense. 

References:
Cardiff University. "A wise man's treatment for arthritis: Frankincense?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 August 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110621121316.htm>.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110621121316.htm

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

12 DAYS CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN: MYRRH

The fragrant myrrh of the Christmas story is the topic of today's Christmas post. Research published in 2009 has shown that myrrh may have cholesterol-lowering properties. The journal published in the International Journal of Food Safety, Nutrition and Public Health discusses the hypocholesterolemic effects of myrrh and other plant products.

Myrrh already has been known to have many health benefits including antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.  And this new research has shown that there are potential cholesterol-lowering effects. 
Previously myrrh has been used in a wide range of traditional remedies over the centuries as a mouthwash, for treating sore throats, bronchial congestion, as well as an antiseptic astringent, for soothing cuts and burns, and it was historically known to calm emotions. 
Working with lab rodents, Nadia Al-Amoudi tested various blends of plant materials, including Myrrh, on laboratory rodents with high cholesterol. She fed the animals various combinations of the plants as part of their normal daily diet and measured blood concentrations of total cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and VLDL (very-low-density lipoprotein), together with TG (triglycerides). She also recorded HDL (high-density lipoprotein). The results showed that the concentrations of LDL (a.k.a "bad cholesterol"), VLDL, and TG all decreased on this diet, while the HDL levels, (a.k.a "good cholesterol") fell.
Commenting on why she chose to study the effects of herbal remedies on cholesterol levels, Al-Amoudi said: "of all nutrients, fat is implicated most often as a contributing factor to disease," explains Al-Amoudi. "Excess fat in the diet contributes to obesity, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, and atherosclerosis. So the change that most people should make in their diets is to limit their intake of total fat and so cholesterol, especially as hypercholesterolemia leads to deposits on the inside of arteries," she says. "However, certain herbal remedies are thought to help reduce cholesterol levels." 

References 
Amoudi et al. Hypocholesterolemic effect of some plants and their blend as studied on albino ratsInternational Journal of Food Safety Nutrition and Public Health, 2009; 2 (2): 176 DOI:10.1504/IJFSNPH.2009.029283
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091215160653.htm

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Monday, December 14, 2015

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN: CHOCOLATE

Chocolate is an all year round necessity (I know for me it is) and also in Christmas, with chocolate advent calendars, chocolate coins etc... so that's the topic for today's post.  A study has shown that chocolate can increase brain characteristics of attention and significantly affect blood pressure levels. Over the years, chocolate has been known as a vasodilator, meaning that it widens blood vessels and lowers blood pressure, in the long run, but chocolate also contains some powerful stimulants. Researchers wanted to investigate if people who consume chocolate would see an immediate stimulant effect -preventing the sleepy feeling you get in the afternoon (whether at school or work).



Stevens and his team tested their theory on with 122 participants between the ages of 18 and 25 years old. The researchers examined the EEG levels and blood pressure effects of consuming a 60 percent cacao confection compared with five control conditions.

The research, published in the journal NeuroRegulation and sponsored by the Hershey Company, is the first to examine the acute effects of chocolate on attentional characteristics of the brain and the first-ever study of chocolate consumption performed using electroencephalography, or EEG technology. EEG studies take images of the brain while it is performing a cognitive task and measure the brain activity.
The results for the participants who consumed the 60 percent cacao chocolate showed that the brain was more alert and attentive after consumption. Their blood pressure also increased for a short time. "A lot of us in the afternoon get a little fuzzy and can't pay attention, particularly students, so we could have a higher cacao content chocolate bar and it would increase attention," Stevens said. 
Steves also stressed that this will not work with milk chocolate, there has to be a high cacao content in the chocolate for the stimulating effect to kick in. 
The participants who consumed the high-cacao content chocolate with L-theanine, researchers recorded an immediate drop in blood pressure. "It's remarkable. The potential here is for a heart healthy chocolate confection that contains a high level of cacao with L-theanine that is good for your heart, lowers blood pressure and helps you pay attention," Stevens said.
The researchers hope, that in the future, the results of this study will encourage manufacturers to investigate further and consider the health benefits of developing a chocolate bar made with high-cacao content and L-theanine. 
Making a chocolate bar that is healthy and also, blood pressure lowering is also beneficial for millions of hypertension patients around the world. They would be able to regulate they're blood pressure with chocolate and stay alert at the same time and probably won't need vasodilating drugs.
References:
  1. Michelle Montopoli, Larry C Stevens, Constance Smith, George Montopoli, Stephanie Passino, Somer Brown, Lena Camou, Katie Carson, Shannon Maaske, Kathleen Knights, William Gibson, Joyce Wu. The Acute Electrocortical and Blood Pressure Effects of ChocolateNeuro Regulation, 2015 [link]
2.   http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150508140302.htm

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Sunday, December 13, 2015

12 Days of Christmas Countdown: Diamonds

‘Tis the season to be jolly and also the season of many engagements (which means lots of diamond rings). Diamonds are the topic for today’s post in which scientists have found that diamonds may not be as rare as they’re thought to be (don’t get too excited, though, that doesn’t mean cheaper diamonds – yet!).



Scientists at Johns Hopkins University have published a new report in the journal Nature Communications which “[constitutes] a new quantitative theory of diamond formation”. The number of diamonds that are mined near the Earth’s surface depends on relatively rare volcanic magma eruptions that raise them from the depths where they form. The diamonds being studied here are ones that you can’t see with the naked eye; they’re only a few microns (1 micron= 1 x10-6 metres) across.

Sverjensky and Huang found that diamonds can be formed in the movement of fluid by the oxidation of methane or the chemical reduction of carbon dioxide. Oxidation results in a higher oxidation state, or a gain of electrons. Reduction means a lower oxidation state, and together they’re known as 'redox' reactions.  The diamonds will form with an increase in acidity during interaction between water and rock; encountering environments with different oxidation states.

The new research showed that water could produce diamonds as its pH falls naturally, when it becomes more acidic (under pH7), while moving from one type of rock to another.  Studies like this are helping scientists study how carbon works and how it’s able to change into diamond form and the carbon cycle on which all life on the planet depends on.

"Fluids are the key link between the shallow and the deep Earth," Sverjensky said. "That's why it's important."

References
1.       Dimitri A. Sverjensky, Fang Huang. Diamond formation due to a pH drop during fluid–rock interactionsNature Communications, 2015; 6: 8702 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms9702


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Saturday, December 12, 2015

12 Days of Christmas Countdown: Christmas Tree Needles

I've just recently started a new job which took up most of my thinking space, I didn't really think about any Christmassy posts on my blogs.  So come December, Compound Interest started his Christmas 2015 advent calendar which is amazing and a really great way to integrate Christmas into chemistry (go check it out now!) and it also encouraged me to start my own mini-Christmas series.

So, I'm starting a countdown till Christmas. For the 12 days till Christmas, I will be choosing something related to Christmas and providing a little interesting scientific story on each Christmas-related thing.



The first post in the countdown is on how scientists have found  a way to keep Christmas tree needles from falling off. Researchers at Université Laval, in collaboration with Nova Scotia Agricultural College, have discovered what causes Christmas tree needles to drop off, and how to double the lifespan of Christmas trees in homes. The authors reported their findings in a previous issue of the scientific journal Trees. The scientists have discovered that the plant hormone, ethylene, is responsible for needle loss. After ten days the branches began to produce ethylene and, three days later, the needles began to drop. 


The chemical compound and plant hormone: Ethylene 

After 40 days, the branches were completely bare. To test that the needle loss was in fact due to the ethylene, the researchers used two chemical compounds that interfere with this hormone: 1-MCP and AVG. After the exposure to each of the chemical compounds, seperatelty, the needle retention period rose to 73 and 87 days, respectively. Tree buyers will benefit from this because the researchers found that the compound AVG (aminoethoxyvinylglycine) is dissolvable in water, which can then be added to the tree stand, prolonging the tree's lifespan indoors. Although this research has only been proven only on branches, they still have to prove that this works for the whole tree. 



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