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June 12, 2019

Good Morning,

Migraine sufferers may be getting some much needed relief thanks to a new smartphone app. Need migraine relief? There's an app for that!

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,

*-- Chemists develop faster way to purify elements --*

Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed a faster way to purify elements. The breakthrough could help researchers discover new elements, reprocess nuclear fuel more efficiently and isolate actinium-225, an isotope with promise as a cancer treatment.

The involved chemists described their new process this week in the Nature Communications.

"Our proposed process appears to be much more efficient than existing processes, involves fewer steps, and can be done in aqueous environments, and therefore does not require harsh chemicals," Rebecca Abergel, head of Berkeley Lab's Heavy Element Chemistry group, said in a news release. "I think this is really important and will be useful for many applications."

Abergel and her colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are particularly interested in the isolation of heavy elements -- elements at the bottom of the periodic table that can be used for medical treatments, space exploration and nuclear energy production.

An element's separation factor describes how easily it can be separated from mixture.

"The higher the separation factor, the fewer contaminants there are," Abergel said. "Usually when you purify an element you'll go through the cycle many times to reduce contaminants."

The less an element needs to be purified, the faster and more cost-effective the isolation process is. For the researchers' new separation technique, Abergel and her colleagues experimented with actinium-225, an isotope that kills cancer cells but leaves healthy cells unharmed in targeted therapies.

Researchers at LBNL have been developing improved production processes for actinium-225.

"With any production process, you need to purify the final isotope," Abergel said. "Our method could be used right after production, before distribution."

In lab tests, scientists deployed synthetic ligands, small molecules that bind metal atoms. Specific ligands can be used to target positive metal ions, which pull contaminants away from the element.

Scientists hope to use their new method to isolate different types of therapeutic isotopes.

"Based on what we've seen, this new method can really be generalized, as long as we have different charges on the metals we want to separate," Abergel said. "Having a good purification process available could make everything easier in terms of post-production processing and availability."

*-- Smartphone app helps patients in small study better manage migraines --*

Closeout EventA new smartphone app may be an effective alternative to drug therapy to reduce migraine frequency, a new study says.

Migraine sufferers had an average of four fewer headaches a month after using RELAXaHEAD, a smartphone-based relaxation technique, at least twice a week, according to research published Tuesday in Nature Digital Medicine.

The app guides users through progressive muscle relaxation exercises that both relax and tense different muscle groups to relieve stress. After a matter of weeks, researchers say participants saw a difference in migraines.

"Our study offers evidence that patients may pursue behavioral therapy if it is easily accessible, they can do it on their own time, and it is affordable," Mia Minen, a neurologist at NYU and study senior investigator, said in a news release.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 percent of women and nearly 10 percent of men have suffered a migraine headache in the last three months.

This smartphone approach, the researchers say, may replace more costly and less convenient in-patient therapy sessions, as well as drug treatments.

For the study, the researchers recruited 51 people who reported having 13 headache days each month. About 39 percent of the participants also reported feeling anxiety and 31 percent reported depression.

The researchers prescribed RELAXaHEAD to the patients and told them to track the severity of headaches for 90 days.

After six weeks, patients reduced use of the app by nearly half, and by more than two-thirds at the end of the study. They said, however, they expected a gradual decrease in use -- even as app usage appeared to increase patient compliance with PMR during the study period.

Minen and her colleagues now want to figure out how to promote more frequent use of the app. The researchers also want to integrate the app's use with traditional oral medication therapy to treat migraine headaches.

Similar apps allow migraine sufferers to keep a record of headaches, monitor triggers for the condition and how to avoid them, and send information to their doctors.

"Clinicians need to rethink their treatment approach to migraine because many of the accepted therapies, although proven to be the current, best course of treatment, aren't working for all lifestyles," Minen said.