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NASA: 2 asteroids pass near Earth this week

A small, newly discovered asteroid passed near Earth earlier his week and a second one is expected to follow suit Friday, according to scientists with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

>> Read more trending news

The asteroids were spotted Sunday by researchers at the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona.

The first, dubbed 2018 CC, passed within about 114,000 miles of Earth around 3:10 p.m. EST Tuesday, according to NASA. Scientists estimated the asteroid was 50-100 feet in diameter.

The second asteroid, called 2018 CB, will pass near Earth around 5:30 p.m. EST Friday at distance of about 39,000 miles, less than one-fifth of the distance between Earth and the moon, according to NASA. It’s slightly larger than the first asteroid, between 50 and 130 feet in diameter.

>> Related: Asteroid passes inside Earth’s satellite ring, ’20 times closer than moon’

"Although 2018 CB is quite small, it might well be larger than the asteroid that entered the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia, almost exactly five years ago, in 2013," Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a news release. 

>> Related: NASA finds 'lost' lunar spacecraft orbiting moon nearly a decade after it disappeared

In February 2013, a fireball lit the skies above Chelyabinsk as a small asteroid entered Earth’s atmosphere. The asteroid was estimated to be 55-65 feet in diameter.

"Asteroids of this size do not often approach this close to our planet -- maybe only once or twice a year," Chodas said.

Hot tea may increase risk of cancer among smokers, drinkers

Smokers and drinkers are already at higher risk of developing cancer, but those regularly consuming hot tea may be multiplying their risks significantly, according to new research.

>> Read more trending news

The new study, published this week in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, found that consuming "hot" or "burning hot" tea is linked with a two- to five-fold rise in esophageal cancer, but only among individuals who also smoke or drink alcohol.

Researchers followed 500,000 adults in China for more than 9 1/2 years on average for the study. Regular tea drinkers were asked to describe the temperature of their beverage as "warm", "hot" or "burning hot."

>> On AJC.com: 7 surprising things that can increase your risk of cancer

"Drinking hot tea contributed to cancer only when it clustered with smoking and drinking alcohol excessively," Dr. Jun Lv, a professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Peking University and a lead author of the study told CNN.

Drinking hot tea alone was not linked to higher rates of esophageal cancer.

>> Related: New cancer 'vaccine' completely wipes out tumors in mice -- human trials are on way

Smoking and drinking alcohol are already known to increase a person's risk of esophageal cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer reports that it is the eighth-most common type of cancer in the world, killing around 400,000 people annually.

Researchers behind the new study defined excessive alcohol consumption as 15 grams or more of alcohol per day, which is a little more than the amount found in a 12-ounce glass of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine or a 1.5-ounce shot of distilled liquor. A smoker was defined as someone who has one or more cigarettes daily on average.

>> Related: Just one drink a day can increase your risk of cancer, study warns

All the data on alcohol, tea and tobacco consumption was self-reported by subjects at the beginning of the research period.

While the results of the study are noteworthy and should be taken as a warning to smokers and drinkers, they are still only observational. The data do not imply cause and effect.

But scientists believe hot beverages may damage the tissue lining the esophagus, which could increase the risk of cancer from other factors, such as repeated irritation of the esophagus and the formation of inflammatory compounds.

"Irritating the lining of the esophagus could lead to increased inflammation and more rapid turnover of the cells," said Neal Freedman, senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, who was not involved in the new research.

>> Related: Pharmaceutical company touts 'breakthrough' cancer treatment

"Alternatively, hot liquids may impair the barrier function of the cells lining the esophagus, leaving the tissue open to greater damage from other carcinogens," he added.

Other experts have noted the value of the results, while also highlighting the long-term impact of drinking hot beverages.

"I think the results are really important," Catherine Carpenter, an associate professor of clinical nutrition at UCLA, told Gizmodo. "[But] there isn't any question about whether tea in of itself is carcinogenic. It's not about that, it's about having a lifetime history of drinking very hot beverages."

>> On AJC.com: ‘One-stop’ blood test to detect cancer shows promise, scientists say

Although the new study does not cast a negative light on drinking hot tea alone, the World Health Organization concluded in 2016 that consuming hot beverages above 149 degrees Fahrenheit is linked to increased rates of esophageal cancer. At the same time, certain types of tea have been been hailed for their potential cancer-fighting abilities.

"It's important to abstain from high-temperature tea in excessive alcohol consumers and smokers for esophageal cancer prevention," Lv told TIME. However, she explained that "keeping away from both tobacco and excessive alcohol use is the most important means for esophageal cancer prevention."

Must see: ‘Starman’ rockets through space on Heavy Falcon SpaceX mission

He’s not Rocketman, but Elon Musk’s Starman is hurtling through space at the wheel of Musk’s luxury car, a Tesla Roadster.

A delay didn’t stop the mogul’s plans to launch the Falcon  Heavy rocket, and retrieve two of its three booster rockets. One, the center core didn’t survive the drone ship landing, Engadget reported.

>> Read more trending news 

This has been the first time a car has ever been sent to space, and Musk’s SpaceX company is sharing Spaceman’s trip via video stream for the entire world to see.

>>Photos: Falcon Heavy rocket launch

Musk said that the trip isn’t going to be a short one for the mannequin and the vehicle, saying it will be orbiting for a billion years, ABC News reported.

>>SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch: What you need to know

Musk told reporters he had he doubts on the success of the blast off. 

“I didn’t really think this would work,” he said to ABC News shortly after launch which was viewed by not only everyday science fans, but also astronauts and celebrities.

Fish oil may not be as healthy as you think, new study suggests

Fish oil has often been touted as an important part of a healthy diet, regularly praised for its numerous benefits. However, new research suggests that consistent fish oil consumption could lead to serious liver problems.

>> Read more trending news

The study, conducted by a group of international scientists and recently published in “The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry” found that long-term intake of sunflower or fish oils damages the liver, potentially causing alterations, which give rise to liver disease. Referred to as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, the form of liver disease is serious and unrelated to alcohol consumption, worsening as an individual ages.

"(Our research) demonstrates that fat accumulates in the liver with age, but the most striking finding is that the type of fat accumulated differs depending on the oils consumed and this means that, regardless of this accumulation, some livers age in a healthier way than others and with a greater or lesser predisposition to certain diseases," Dr. José Luis Quiles Morales, who co-authored the study and works as a professor of physiology at the University of Granada in Spain, told Science Daily.

>> Related: Do calcium and vitamin D supplements actually protect your bones?

Scientists behind the study examined how the long-term consumption of different dietary fat sources such as olive, sunflower and fish oils affects the liver of rats. As part of the comprehensive study, the researchers carried out a complete analysis of the liver genome, aiming to establish how it evolved in line with a rat's consumption of different oils.

They looked at three types of oil: virgin olive oil, sunflower oil and fish oils. According to their findings, virgin olive oil proved to be the best at preserving the liver.

>> Related: Coconut oil isn’t actually good for you, the American Heart Association says/news/health-med-fit-science

Fish oil, on the other hand, increased oxidation of the liver associated with aging, reduced mitochondrial electron transport chain activity and changed the relative length of telomeres (chromosomes whose length can affect aging in cells and cause cancer). 

Sunflower oil was also demonstrated to cause negative effects.

>> On AJC.com: 3 easy, healthy ways to season your meals 

"The alterations caused by the long-term consumption of sunflower and fish oils make the liver susceptible to NASH," Morales told The Daily Mail. He also warned that NASH is a "very serious disease that may act as a catalyst for other liver diseases such as cirrhosis and liver cancer."

Although many nutritionists have classified fish oil as a super food and it has been previously linked to health benefits, this isn't the first time scientists have suggested it may not be so great.

Previous research has suggested taking fish oil supplements can lower the risk of death from heart disease, while others have found no benefit. A recently published review of data from 10 studies involving a total of nearly 78,000 people, revealed that patients regularly taking fish oil supplements were just as likely to experience a stroke or heart attack within a four year period of time as those who did not, according to Live Science.

>> Related: 9 healthy-sounding foods that have more sugar than a Krispy Kreme doughnut

Dr. Howard LeWine, chief medical editor at Harvard Health Publishing, wrote in a 2013 blog post that he believes the evidence for fish oils' benefits and risks will be a topic of debate for the foreseeable future.

"Experts will surely remain divided on their opinions about fish oil supplements for the general population. And don't expect any clarity about what to do any time soon. I expect other studies with flip-flopping results in the future," he wrote.

>> On AJC.com: The questions you were too afraid to ask about healthy eating

For now, Morales suggests those concerned for their liver stick to consuming virgin olive oil instead of the other alternatives.

"Virgin olive oil is the healthiest option," the researcher said, explaining that it "has already been proven in relation to diverse aspects of health."

Pharmaceutical company touts 'breakthrough' cancer treatment

Patients participating in a trial for a new lung cancer treatment have shown signs of improved health, leading the pharmaceutical company behind the study to hail a major "breakthrough” in the field.

>> Read more trending news

The American company Bristol-Myers Squibb reported Monday that lung cancer patients treated with a combination of its anti-tumor drug Opdivo and its melanoma drug Yervoy showed encouraging results.

According to the company, the treatment fared better than chemotherapy for individuals with "first-line advanced non-small cell lung cancer," known as NSCLC.

>> Related: Just one drink a day can increase your risk of cancer, study warns

"This Phase 3 study shows superior PFS (progression-free survival) with first-line combination immunotherapy in a predefined population of NSCLC patients with high TMB (tumor mutation burden)," Dr. Matthew D. Hellmann, study investigator and medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, said in a press release.

Dr. Giovanni Caforio, chairman and chief executive officer of Bristol-Myers Squibb, said that his company sees the results as "a breakthrough in cancer research and a meaningful step forward in determining which first-line lung cancer patients may benefit most from the combination of Opdivo and Yervoy."

>> On AJC.com: 7 surprising things that can increase your risk of cancer

"These findings attest to our deep understanding of cancer biology, leading translational medicine capabilities and commitment to developing new approaches for cancer patients," he added.

The treatment trials are currently in their final phase, meaning the next step is to seek approval from the Food and Drug Administration to market the drug combination as a treatment for this specific condition. A panel of experts formed to assess the data recommended that the clinical trial move forward, despite some modifications made during the trial, according to the company.

>> Related: New cancer 'vaccine' completely wipes out tumors in mice -- human trials are on way

Bristol-Myers Squibb has been a pioneer in immunotherapy, according to Reuters. But some analysts are still holding out to see whether or not the treatment will be a success.

"Overall survival is what matters," BMO Capital Markets analyst Alex Arfaei said, explaining that regulators prefer that standard.

"The survival benefit may not be that great," he added, pointing to other new promising treatments.

One analyst called the study "a clear win" for the company, but another cautioned that the report is "positive but unquantified data," according to Bloomberg.

Critics questioned whether the pharmaceutical company’s clinical trial design change may have sullied the results.

>> Related: Long-term aspirin users at lower risk of cancer, study concludes

According to MarketWatch, researchers made changes to the Phase 3 trial, called CheckMate-227, while it was already ongoing.

Bristol-Myers management addressed the concerns Monday in a conference call, stating that it responded to emerging science and only made changes after conversations with the Food and Drug Administration.

Nonetheless, the company is hailing the trials as "a true example" of "innovation."

>> On AJC.com: ‘One-stop’ blood test to detect cancer shows promise, scientists say

Overall survival data from the Opdivo and Yervoy combination trial will be released near the end of 2018 or early in 2019 the company said.

Already, Opdivo is the company's best-selling drug, reporting sales of $4.95 billion globally last year.

"By harnessing the body's own immune system to fight cancer, Opdivo has become an important treatment option across multiple cancers," Bristol-Myers Squibb explained.

>> Related: 72 major genetic risk factors for breast cancer identified in new study

The new trials will likely increase the drug's profitability as they further demonstrate its benefits, the company said. However, Seamus Fernandez, an analyst at Leerink Partners, pointed out that it remains to be seen whether combining Opdivo with Yervoy provides better results than taking the drug alone.

For now, Bristol-Myers Squibb is thanking the patients who participated in the trial leading to the "breakthrough."

"We would like to thank the patients and researchers who participated in these clinical trials — without whom this scientific advance would not be realized," the company said in a statement.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch: What you need to know

Florida’s Space Coast is owning up to its nickname as research and launch activity ramps up. 

Feb. 6 was a historic day with the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket.

>> Read more trending news

The rocket successfully blasted off at 3:45 p.m., rescheduled from 2:20 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. due to winds. The boosters successfully landed simultaneously after the rocket launch.

It launched from 39A, the same pad used for the Apollo missions. SpaceX’s pad was damaged in September 2016 when a rocket exploded. 

The Falcon Heavy rocket was a test launch, costing around $90 million. The heavy lift vehicle can place about 68.3 metric tons in low Earth orbit. The most a rocket has carried to orbit was the Saturn V at about 118 metric tons, used in the Apollo program in the 1960s and the Skylab space station in the 1970s. The most recent version of a single Falcon 9 rocket can lift 13.2 tons. 

“If this is successful, this is once again SpaceX disrupting the marketplace and that's a good thing,” Dale Ketcham with Space Florida said before the launch. 

SpaceX founder Elon Musk has played down expectations for the launch publicly, saying this is a brand new vehicle with 27 engines having to work in sync. 

Large crowds were expected for the launch.

“We expect upwards of 100,000 people will come to the community just to see the launch, and that's on top of the people that are already here, including our seasonal guests, so it's going to be a huge crowd,” Eric Garvey of the Space Coast Office of Tourism said before the Tuesday launch.

Here are the main things to know about the Falcon Heavy liftoff: 

  • It is essentially three rockets bolted together to make the heavy vehicle.

  • It is a test flight.

  • The middle booster will carry Elon Musk’s own Red Tesla Roadster.

  • The Roadster is planned be near Mars’ orbit in a precision Earth Mars elliptical orbit around the sun. 

  • The mission will try to prove that it is possible to put payloads into an orbit intersecting Mars. This would help in the mission planned to put humans in Mars.

  • Musk presented this project in 2011 and he planned to roll out the heavy rocket in Southern California in late 2012. He hoped for a launch at some point in 2013 -- it was obviously delayed.

  • The rockets were put in position in pad 39A and tested in December 2017.

  • Falcon Heavy rockets cost a fraction of the price of the future Space Launch System rockets, which are planned to have more lift and throw a spacecraft further into space, to Jupiter and beyond. They will probably not be ready until the mid-2020s.

  • Each rocket has nine engines, making it 27 engines in total that need to ignite in tandem.

  • The two side rockets will jettison from the center rocket two and a half minutes after liftoff.

  • The center booster will continue for a bit longer before engines are shut off.

  • All three rockets are planned to land back on Earth; two back at the Cape and the heavier rocket at the Atlantic (barge) platform called “Of course, I still love you.”

  • There is a good chance that this launch may fail.

  • Falcon Heavy weighs more than 3.1 million pounds (loaded with kerosene and liquid oxygen) and it's about 229 feet tall.

  • If successful, there will be more heavy launches during the first half of 2018 from Cape Canaveral, too.

  • Central Florida residents, especially those near the coast -- but as far away as metro Orlando -- may hear a sonic boom.

Study: Chemicals found in McDonald's fries could cure baldness

Can eating McDonald’s French fries cure baldness? It seems far-fetched, but Japanese scientists said a chemical used to prepare the fast-food giant’s fries may restore hair for those experiencing hair loss, Newsweek reported.

>> Read more trending news

A stem cell research team from Yokohama National University used dimethylpolysiloxane, the silicone added to McDonald’s fries, to regrow hair on mice, Newsweek reported. The scientists said that preliminary tests showed that the chemical was likely to be successful on humans, too.

The study was released in the Biomaterials journal on Feb. 1. Scientists were able to produce “hair follicle germs” (HFG) in mass quantities. The use of dimethylpolysiloxane, which is used by McDonald’s to stop cooking oil from frothing, was crucial to the advancement, scientists said.

“The key for the mass production of HFGs was a choice of substrate materials for the culture vessel,” Junji Fukuda of Yokohama National University said in the study. “We used oxygen-permeable dimethylpolysiloxane (PDMS) at the bottom of (the) culture vessel, and it worked very well.”

The scientists transplanted HFG chips onto the bodies of mice, and within days, Fukuda said, the animals were growing new black hair in the transplanted area, Newsweek reported. 

"This simple method is very robust and promising,” Fukuda said in the study. “We hope this technique will improve human hair regenerative therapy to treat hair loss such as androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness). In fact, we have preliminary data that suggests human HFG formation using human keratinocytes and dermal papilla cells."

McDonald’s officials have not commented on the study, Newsweek reported.

These two common foods may trigger rheumatoid arthritis, study says

If you keep your refrigerator stocked with milk and beef, beware. These common food items may trigger rheumatoid arthritis for those genetically at risk, according to a new report.

>> Read more trending news

Researchers from the University of Central Florida recently conducted an experiment, published in the Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, to determine the link between arthritis and a bacteria called Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP), which is commonly found in milk and beef.

In previous studies, scientists discovered a link between MAP and Crohn’s disease and learned that Crohn’s and rheumatoid arthritis share the same genetic makeup. 

>> On AJC.com: You can avoid strokes and heart attacks with these two household fruits, study says 

“Here you have two inflammatory diseases, one affects the intestine and the other affects the joints, and both share the same genetic defect and treated with the same drugs. Do they have a common trigger? That was the question we raised and set out to investigate,” Saleh Naser, co-author of the study, said in a statement.

To explore their hypothesis, researchers examined 100 volunteers with rheumatoid arthritis. About 78 percent of them had the same genetic mutation found in Crohn’s patients, and 40 percent of those cases were positive for MAP.

>> On AJC.com: Ex-smokers may be able to repair their lungs with these two household fruits, study says

“We believe that individuals born with this genetic mutation and who are later exposed to MAP through consuming contaminated milk or meat from infected cattle are at a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis,” Naser said.

The researchers revealed that people with rheumatoid arthritis also suffer from Crohn’s, and they want to investigate “the incidence of the two diseases in the same patients” next.

Their latest findings are promising, but the scientists say “there is still a long way to go.”

“We need to find out why MAP is more predominant in these patients – whether it’s present because they have RA, or whether it caused RA in these patients,” said Shazia Beg, a co-author of the study. “If we find that out, then we can target treatment toward the MAP bacteria.”

Super blue blood moon eclipse: Watch NASA video of the rare lunar event

The super blue blood moon total lunar eclipse, a highly anticipated, rare celestial event more than 150 years in the making, could be seen overhead early Wednesday.

READ MORE: 9 things to knowSuper blue blood moon eclipse: What you need to know | Photos: Super blue blood moon eclipse 2018MORE  

The full moon passed through the Earth’s shadow to create a total lunar eclipse. The moon appeared reddish, hence the name “blood moon.” Totality, when the moon was entirely inside the Earth’s dark umbral shadow, lasted about 1 1/4 hours.

NASA officials shared a live stream of the event Wednesday on NASA-TV.

Wednesday's full moon was also the third in a series of three straight full moon supermoons – that is, super-close full moons. It was the first of two blue moons in 2018. 

It marked the first blue moon total eclipse in America since March 31, 1866.

– WHIO.com and AJC.com contributed to this report.

Flu virus spread by breathing, study finds

Most people believe that the influenza virus is spread through the coughs and sneezes of infected people, but new research published Thursday suggests that the flu virus is spread more easily than previously thought.

>> Read more trending news

Medical professionals believe that the virus is spread most often by “droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But researchers studying how the virus spreads recently found large amounts of the virus in the breath of people suffering from the flu, according to the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health.

>> Related: Influenza surveillance map: Where is the flu in my state? 

The researchers -- from the University of Maryland, San Jose State University, Missouri Western State University and the University of California, Berkeley -- published their findings Thursday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We found that flu cases contaminated the air around them with infectious virus just by breathing, without coughing or sneezing,” said Donald Milton, professor of environmental health in the University of Maryland School of Public Health and lead researcher for the study.

Milton and his team examined the virus content in the breath of 142 people who were diagnosed with flu as they were breathing normally, speaking, coughing and sneezing. Researchers found that a majority of those who participated in the study had enough of the infectious virus in just their regular, exhaled breath to possibly infect another person.

A review of the data collected from the coughs and sneezes of infected participants showed that neither action appeared to have a large impact on whether or not the virus was spread.

>> Related: 11 things parents need to know about the flu, the vaccine, how long kids need to stay out of school  

“People with flu generate infectious aerosols (tiny droplets that stay suspended in the air for a long time), even when they are not coughing and especially during the first days of illness,” Milton said.

The study’s authors said the results highlighted how necessary it is for people who have the flu to stay at home.

>> Related: What is the H3N2 flu and how bad is flu season this year? 

“The study findings suggest that keeping surfaces clean, washing our hands all the time, and avoiding people who are coughing does not provide complete protection from getting the flu,” said Sheryl Ehrman, the dean of the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering at San Jose State University. “Staying home and out of public spaces could make a difference in the spread of the influenza virus.”

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