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19 June 2018. University of California received a patent for its genome editing technology known as Crispr, with the most widely used editing enzyme called Cas9. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued patent number 10,000,772 to four inventors including geneticists Jennifer Doudna at University of California in Berkeley and Emmanuelle Charpentier now director of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Braunschweig, Germany, the senior authors on the original paper describing the technique in 2012.

Crispr, short for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, is a technique for editing genomes based on bacterial defense mechanisms that use RNA to identify and monitor precise locations in DNA. The actual editing of genomes with Crispr in most cases uses an enzyme known as Crispr-associated protein 9 or Cas9. RNA molecules guide the editing enzymes to specific genes needing repair, making it possible to address root causes of many diseases, but also adjust traits in plant crops by removing or changing specific genes.

The Crispr technology spawned a rush of potential applications, with benefits anticipated for people with inherited diseases or modifying plant genomes to improve crop production. Other researchers working with Crispr, particularly those at the Broad Institute, a medical research center affiliated with MIT and Harvard University and led by geneticist Feng Zhang, developed implementations of Crispr which they claimed were independent of the work by Doudna and Charpentier.

As a result, Broad Institute — legally MIT and Harvard University — filed its own U.S. patent for Crispr, leading to a challenge from University of California that said Broad interfered with its patent claims, meaning Broad took unfair advantage of California’s previous work. In response, Broad pointed out that Zhang’s work with Crispr focuses on eukaryotes, plant and animal cells where genetic material is found in the nucleus. The California research, in contrast, is conducted with prokaryotes, organisms without a cell nucleus, such as bacteria and other single-cell microorganisms. These differences, said Broad, call for different methods and techniques.

As reported by Science & Enterprise in February 2017, the USPTO’s Patent Trials and Appeal Board hearing the case found Broad Institute’s arguments more persuasive, and agreed that Broad’s technology would not have been an obvious derivative of University of California’s discoveries.

University of California decided to pursue a different strategy for its intellectual property, protecting discoveries by Doudna and Charpentier using Crispr with Cas9 enzymes for editing on all cells. That strategy appears to be paying off with winning a European patent later in 2017 and today’s announcement of a U.S. patent. The university notes in a statement that its claims for Crispr-Cas 9 are “not involved in any interference proceeding before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or any appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.”

For its part, Broad Institute appears to be focusing on a different editing enzyme called cpf1, which it says is simpler, smaller and more precise than Cas9. MIT and Harvard University, Broad’s parent institutions, were awarded a European patent for Crisper-cpf1 genome editing in 2017.

The Crispr-Cas9 patent was awarded the same day as USPTO celebrated its 10 millionth patent award, to an inventor in California for a laser detection and range-finding device.

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19 June 2018. If you own a business, you’ll already be aware of how competitive the market is. New companies seem to be popping up left, right, and center and the major corporations aren’t slowing down anytime soon. Therefore, you need to ensure that you’re able to stand out from the crowd so that consumers and clients will choose you over someone else. In such a saturated environment, it can be a challenge to where to begin regarding getting the word out about your business.

However, there are plenty of professional touches to consider that will ensure you gain consumer trust as soon as possible and continue to give them a positive experience when they choose to visit you online or in person. Once you’ve caught the eye of potential customers and clients, gained and built their trust in your company, and ensured that they’ll return to invest with you again, you’re on a growth path that won’t slow down anytime soon.

Therefore, it’s crucial that you look at the key areas of your business and decide how you can boost your traffic and turn each visit into sales and profit. The following are some ideas, tips, and advice for those who want to push their company forward, focus on the details that matter, and give it plenty of professionalism to gain and build on their credibility for a successful road ahead.

Strength lies in your brand and identity

Often, people will recognize a strong brand logo, color palette, or tagline straight away. Therefore, it’s vital that you invest in branding and design experts who will give you the means to brand each element of your online or physical presence. Branding should help build trust with clients, so make sure all emails, website, blogs, social media platforms, and printed items or signage show your logo and identity. Sensing useful items to those you want to remember you is a great way to remind them you’re there; why not try custom PVC USBs? Or, you could even go down the edible route, and send over baked treats with your logo on them; companies will remember this experience, and you’ll stay on their mind.

If changes are made to the color or design of something; it must be implemented across the board so that everything links back to your business and you get a professional, considered aesthetic. Think about what you look for when you want something from a business, and begin making changes in your company so that you can develop and grow towards future success.

Looking the part across the board

Whether it’s your website domain, phone number, or email address; you need them to look professional, and they need to help establish you as a legitimate, appealing business for potential customers. Therefore, you need to ensure that you’ve paid for a clear domain name that’s the same as your company’s name, or as close to it as possible. Your social media handles need to be just the same; clear, coherent, and consistent so that wherever your visitors land, they’ll be able to see who you are. There should be nothing personal about your email address; invest in one that puts your business name as the address. Free mail accounts can look shoddy and unprofessional which will put customers off.

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(Media News, Flickr)

19 June 2018. Mild electronic stimulation to specific brain regions is shown to restore upper limb movements in lab animals induced with stroke, with similar brain signals in humans also identified as targets. The findings of a medical research and engineering team at University of California in San Francisco appear in yesterday’s issue of the journal Nature Medicine (paid subscription required).

Researchers from the neural engineering lab led by neuroscience professor Karunesh Ganguly are seeking better rehabilitation options for people recovering from stroke, who often struggle with goal-directed movements of their hands and arms. Stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted, cutting the oxygen needed by brain cells to function. The vast majority (85%) of strokes are caused by blood clots, while many other strokes are caused by blood vessel leakage in the brain. Nearly 800,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke each year, with paralysis and weakness in the limbs among the results. Recovery, often in rehabilitation clinics, can take months or years of continuous exercises.

The researchers, with colleagues from other UC-San Francisco labs and medical centers in the area, focused on low-frequency oscillations, nerve cell activity in the motor cortex, the brain’s region that controls voluntary muscle movement. These nerve signals are believed to coordinate muscle activity to make movements smooth and efficient. In tests with lab rats, the team measured low-frequency oscillations when the animals reached for food pellets, both before and during the reaching activities.

The researchers then induced strokes in the lab animals, and again measured brain signals, which show low-frequency oscillations diminishing after a stroke. In addition, as the rats recovered and their upper limb movements improved, low-frequency oscillations also recovered, with a strong correlation found between these brain signals and recovery of limb functions.

Ganguly and colleagues used electrodes implanted in the brains of the rodents to measure their low-frequency oscillations, and with the same electrodes delivered mild electronic stimulation to the damaged area of the motor cortex. The researchers timed delivery of the electronic stimulation to immediately before the rats made a reaching movement. The results show reaching movements aided by electronic stimulation are 60 percent more accurate than unassisted movements.

The team also sought evidence of the role played by low-frequency oscillations in humans recovering from a stroke. The researchers analyzed recordings of low-frequency oscillations from the brain of a person with epilepsy who also suffered a stroke. The team found fewer low-frequency oscillations from this individual than in two other persons with epilepsy who did not have a stroke.

The authors believe their findings can accelerate development of brain implants to stimulate low-frequency oscillations for stroke recovery, which enhance current brain signals rather than introducing an artificial stimulus. “We are not creating a new frequency,” says  Ganguly in a university statement, “we are amplifying the existing frequency. By amplifying the weak low-frequency oscillations, we are able to help organize the task-related neural activity. When we delivered the electrical current in step with their intended actions, motor control actually got better.”

University of California filed for a patent on the technology in June 2017, listing Ganguly and co-authors Tanuj Gulati and Dhakshin Ramanathan as inventors.

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Gut microbes cultured in an artistic design (Nicola Fawcett, Wikimedia Commons)

18 June 2018. Researchers from a biotechnology company and a research institute are starting a joint project to find treatments for Parkinson’s disease targeting bacteria in the gut. Financial and intellectual property aspects of the partnership between Axial Biotherapeutics Inc. in Boston, and Parkinson’s Institute and Clinical Center in Sunnyvale, California were not disclosed.

The collaboration plans to advance research by Axial Biotherapeutics’ co-founder Sarkis Mazmanian, a microbiologist at California Institute of Technology. As reported by Science and Enterprise in November 2016 at the company’s founding, Mazmanian’s lab at Caltech studies molecular processes of symbiotic bacteria in the gut on various human disorders, combining work in genomics, microbiology, immunology, and neuroscience. Axial Biotherapeutics has an exclusive, worldwide license from Caltech for research by Mazmanian on signaling pathways between communities of bacteria, viruses, and other microbes in the human gut, known as the gut microbiome, and diseases of the central nervous system.

Parkinson’s Institute and Clinical Center conducts both basic research on Parkinson’s disease and clinical trials of experimental treatments. Parkinson’s disease occurs when the brain produces less of the substance dopamine, a neurotransmitter that sends signals from one neuron or nerve cell to another. As the level of dopamine lowers, people with Parkinson’s disease become less able to control their bodily movements and emotions. Symptoms include tremors, i.e. shaking, slowness and rigidity in movements, loss of facial expression, decreased ability to control blinking and swallowing, and in some cases, depression and anxiety. According to Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, some 60,000 new cases of Parkinson’s disease are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, with more than 10 million people worldwide living with the disease.

One target of Mazmanian’s research is alpha-synuclein proteins believed to play a role in the development of Parkinson’s disease, or PD, where too much or abnormal forms of the protein can in some cases be toxic to nerve cells in the brain or cause the cells to malfunction. Findings by Mazmanian and others with lab animals show promoting or limiting gut microbes responsible for over-production of alpha-synuclein proteins can likewise promote or inhibit physiological signs Parkinson’s disease in the animals, suggesting signaling pathways from the gut to the brain. In addition, colonizing the gastrointestinal, or GI, tracts of lab mice with gut microbes from Parkinson’s disease patients enhance Parkinson’s-like physical impairments, compared to gut microbes from healthy individuals.

Researchers from Axial and Parkinson’s Institute are expected to test these and other interventions based on gut microbes in preclinical studies with cellular models and lab animals provided by Parkinson’s Institute. “Our team is conducting advanced clinical research,” says Parkinson’s Institute CEO Carrolee Barlow in an Axial statement, “which suggests that disorders like Parkinson’s are not just a brain condition but very likely have origins in the GI system.” She adds that, “It is our ultimate goal to determine if this approach can stop PD from progressing.”

Axial Therapeutics also announced that Barlow is joining its Neurology Scientific and Clinical Advisory Board, and will help guide the company’s clinical programs.

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(PXHere.com)

18 June 2018. Construction is an ever growing industry, because, without it, none of the houses, hospitals, schools, stores, and other buildings around you would get built. Because of this, it’s no surprise that so many entrepreneurs, both young and old, want to start their own construction companies. After all, it makes perfect sense to have a business in an industry where people are spending lots of money. There’s no better time to start your own business than right now, but there are a few things you are going to need to get up and running. Here are just five things of those things.

Experience in the industry

If you want your business to be a success, then you need to know what you’re doing. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible if you have no experience in the construction industry. If you lack this necessary experience, then you should put your plans on hold and spend a few years working with other companies first. This way, you’ll gain first-hand knowledge and develop the necessary skills to run a construction company successfully.

Money to invest

Whether you like it or not, companies aren’t built on passion and knowledge; They’re built from money. Because of this, it’s essential that you have the cash needed to buy equipment, licenses, permits and pay for any employees you hire. Unless you have a lot of money saved up yourself, you’re going to have to find financial backing from somewhere. This could come from a bank loan, an angel investor, or a business partner.

Vehicles and equipment

Construction businesses require a lot more equipment than most others. They, of course, need computers, printers, and other IT essentials, like any other business does, but they also need vehicles, like vans and trucks, and machinery, like diggers and drills. You can buy these things outright, from other construction companies and auction sites, like WSM auctioneers. Alternatively, you could rent what you need, which is the more cost-efficient option.

(Bridgesward,Pixabay)

The right employees

You may want to do everything yourself, but trying to do so will never end well. This means that you’re going to have to start hiring people to work with and for you. Thankfully, the construction industry is where many people want to start their careers, so you should have plenty of candidates to choose from. Just make sure that you choose the right employees for you and your business, or you’ll end up wasting time and money.

All the legal paperwork

Like with any other business, you’re going to need certain permits and licenses before you’re legally allowed to start working. You’re also going to need a comprehensive insurance plan to cover you from many different scenarios, including staff injuries and theft. This can all get a very confusing, even for experienced entrepreneurs, so you may want to get some legal advice to ensure that you’re definitely following the law.

There is no better time to start a construction company that right now, but there are a few things you’re going to need first. Before you can start your own business, make sure that you’ve got the five things listed above.

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(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

18 June 2018. A new initiative in Europe is investigating the connection between a person’s molecular composition and autism, particularly when other disorders complicate that individual’s condition. The €115 million ($US 154 million) in funding for the Autism Innovative Medicine Studies-2-Trials, or AIMS-2-Trials, project also supports a Europe-wide network of clinical trials to evaluate autism therapies.

AIMS-2-Trials is led by King’s College London in the U.K., which plans to better understand connections between autism and a person’s biological chemistry. Autism spectrum disorder is a collection of neurodevelopmental conditions marked by communication difficulties and impaired social interaction, as well as repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior. Some 1 in 59 children have autism spectrum disorder, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S., with males 4 times more likely to have the disorder than females. Classic autism is considered the most severe form of the syndrome.

The need for personalized treatments is driven in part by conditions occurring with autism that threaten the health of people with the disorder. Among these conditions are epilepsy, anxiety, and depression that contribute to as much as a 30-year reduction in life expectancy, according to Kings College.

“‘Many autistic people face extremely poor health outcomes,” says Kings College psychiatry professor and academic project lead Declan Murphy in a university statement, “yet autism research receives far less investment than other conditions which also limit life expectancy and quality of life, such as cancer or dementia. This grant will allow us to bridge the gap between basic biology and the clinic by offering personalized approaches that address problems which really impact autistic people’s lives.”

As part of this precision medicine approach, the AIMS-2-Trials project plans to develop tests to determine various paths for the progress of autism in individuals, as well as their likelihood of developing other disorders. The project is also establishing a network of clinical trials for testing experimental treatments for autism. This clinical trial network is expected to work with organizations, government agencies, and businesses involved with autism.

One of the organizations supporting AIMS-2-Trials is Autistica, also in London. James Cusack, the group’s science director, says “Autistic people deserve an equal right to a long, healthy happy life.  To deliver on that vision, we’re working together to understand why autistic people are different from each other. ”

AIMS-2-Trials is building on a previous initiative, European Autism Interventions or EU-AIMS, to develop new treatments for autism, also led by Kings College London and pharmaceutical company Roche. In the new project, the Simons Foundation, Autism Speaks, and Autistica are providing a total of €55.5 million, with €2.5 million offered by industry participants through the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations. The remaining remaining €57 million is provided by the European Union through the Innovative Medicines Initiative that funds research on new therapies through public-academic-industry partnerships.

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Click on image for full size view. (Statista)

17 June 2018. Apple’s iPhones continue to set the pace for new smartphones worldwide, at least during the first 3 months of 2018. In a chart published this week, our friends at Statista rank the top 10 models of smartphones shipped during the first quarter of this year, our infographic for this weekend.

The data, from the market research company IHS Markit, show Apple iPhone X and iPhone 8 take the top 2 positions in estimated shipments from January through March 2018, with Samsung’s Galaxy Grand Prime Plus, close behind the iPhone 8. Apple and Samsung divide the remainder of the top 10 models shipped.

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Livongo connected blood glucose meter (Livongo Health)

15 June 2018. A study of people with type 2 diabetes shows the combination of intensive lifestyle coaching with a blood glucose meter connected to the Internet results in more weight loss and lower blood glucose levels. Findings from a test of the device made by Livongo Health in Mountain View, California, with different coaching programs, appear in the 16 May issue of the Journal of Diabetes Research.

Diabetes is a chronic disorder where the pancreas does not create enough insulin to process the sugar glucose to flow into the blood stream and cells for energy in the body. In type 2 diabetes, which accounts for at least 90 percent of all diabetes cases, the pancreas produces some but not enough insulin, or the body cannot process insulin. According to the International Diabetes Federation, diabetes affects an estimated 425 million people worldwide, of which 46 million are in North America.

Livongo designs digital systems for managing diabetes, including analytics derived from data provided by individuals using the company’s smartphone-based technology. The system includes a smart blood glucose meter that connects to cellular networks, and transmits data from the meter to family members, clinicians monitoring the person’s condition, and third-party diabetes counselors certified by Livongo. The meter also collects other data related to the person’s health, such as physical activity.

Data from the smart meter are sent as well to a database in the cloud, where a rules-based inference engine analyzes the data and offers personalized guidance to the individual with diabetes and his or her physician. Livongo users with the mobile app can receive coaching, with tips on nutrition and lifestyle changes, from licensed third-party counselors. People connected to the meter in the Livongo community can provide feedback via voice telephone, e-mail, or text message.

A research team from Livongo and Stanford University sought to determine the optimum level of coaching plus Livongo technology that returns the best results for people with type 2 diabetes. More than 1,900 adults registered in the Livongo program since 2014 were invited to take part in a 12-week study using Livongo meters alone, with a connected weight scale, combined with light lifestyle coaching, or intensive lifestyle coaching. Light coaching offers a 20-minute introductory call and standardized lessons, text messages, meal ratings, and activity recommendations. Intensive coaching includes a 60-minute introductory call, with personalized goal setting, lessons, text messages, meal ratings, and activity recommendations. Restore Health in Palo Alto, California provided the coaching.

Individuals taking part in the study all had type 2 diabetes, were overweight, and had no yet achieving their target blood glucose levels. Of the 1,936 invited to take part, 454 agreed to participate, and 330 completed the study. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the 4 treatment groups: Livongo meter only, Livongo meter and connected scale, Livongo meter and light coaching, and Livongo meter and intensive coaching.

After 12 weeks, participants in the intensive coaching group showed the most weight loss, 6.4 pounds, and lower blood glucose levels of 0.7 percent on average. Light coaching participants lost 4.1 pounds and reduced their blood glucose by 0.4 percent. Those using Livongo and the connected scale had the fewest reductions in both measures. The intensive coaching program costs 5.5 times as much as light coaching.

“Personalization is key to diabetes management,” says Jennifer Bollyky in a company statement. Bollyky heads clinical research at Livongo and is the lead author on the study, as well as a faculty member at Stanford. “This study demonstrates that short periods of intensive coaching when people get stuck on their way to their glucose and weight goals can be empowering and helpful.”

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Model of graphene atomic structure (CORE-Materials, Flickr)

15 June 2018. Engineers and neuroscientists discovered a technique for enhancing the conductivity of graphene electrodes to make them better able to record optical images of brain activity in lab mice. A team from University of California in San Diego describes its process in the 5 June issue of the journal Advanced Functional Materials (paid subscription required).

Researchers from the neuroelectronics lab of engineering professor Duygu Kuzum are seeking ways of using graphene electrodes to monitor brain functions. Current methods use electronic techniques for tracking physiological signals in the brain, which are limited compared to optical technologies. Optical imaging, say the researchers, is able to monitor calcium loads on nerve cells in the brain, an indicator of brain signals, down to the level of individual cells.

Implanted graphene electrodes, which can be placed beneath the skull on the surface of brain tissue, offer an opportunity to capture these calcium signals. Graphene is a material closely related to graphite like that used in pencils, one atom in thickness and arrayed in an hexagonal atomic pattern. The material is very light, strong, chemically stable, and can conduct both heat and electricity, with applications in electronics, energy, manufacturing, and health care. The ultra-thin nature of graphene makes possible flexible and transparent electrodes, better able to monitor brain functions than stiffer and opaque metals.

The conductivity of graphene, however, presents a problem. While graphene can conduct an electrical current, it has high impedance, which slows the flow of electrons in the current, and reduces its usefulness for capturing images. In their report, Kuzum and colleagues describe a technique for enhancing the conductivity of graphene, with nanoscale particles of platinum. Graphene, the team discovered, offers few pathways through which electrons can flow, contributing to its high impedance. The platinum nanoparticles provide alternative pathways for electrons, and the researchers found a dusting of platinum added to the surface of graphene reduces impedance to 1 percent of graphene alone, while retaining 70 percent of the material’s transparency.

“This technique is the first to overcome graphene’s electrochemical impedance problem without sacrificing its transparency,” says Kuzum in a university statement. “By lowering impedance, we can shrink electrode dimensions down to single cell size and record neural activity with single cell resolution.”

Kuzum’s group collaborated with UC-San Diego neuroscientist Takaki Komiyama to test the graphene-platinum electrodes with lab mice. The electrodes were implanted at 50 and 250 micrometers inside the mice brains’ surface, where they recorded brain signals. The team also sent laser beams through the electrodes while recording nerve cell signals. As a result, the researchers could simultaneously record nerve cell signals while visualizing spikes in calcium on individual nerve cells, thus identifying the individual nerve cells responsible for those signals.

“This work opens up new opportunities to use optical imaging to detect which neurons are the source of the activity that we are measuring,” notes Kuzum. “This has not been possible with previous electrodes. Now we have a new technology that enables us to record and image the brain in ways we could not before.” The team plans to reduce the size of the electrodes and build them into high-density arrays.

The following brief (20 second) video shows spikes of calcium imaged 250 micrometers inside the brain tissue of a test mouse.

In vivo neural imaging with low-impedance graphene electrodes - YouTube
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15 June 2018. Over the past few years, a lot of scientific industries and business sectors have proved to be very lucrative investment areas. Not only are corporate investors putting their money into new startups and companies in these modern markets, but lots of private investors are also realizing that these are good areas for their cash as well. Even if you can’t pump enough finance into a new business, you could invest in scientific industries thanks to investment opportunities on the stock market and elsewhere.

One of these industries that have seen particularly good growth over the past few years is the energy sector. In fact, there are lots of investors who are putting huge amounts of their savings into investments in this area. Do you want to join them? Here are some great tips that you might find useful.

(Free-Photos, Pixabay)

Do your research

As with any type of investment opportunity, it is always necessary to carry out plenty of research before you decide which to go with. There are a lot of different ways you can invest your cash, and it is crucial that you pick the right one for you that could bring you some very high returns. One way to research this is to look at the credible suppliers in this area and see what their best sellers are at the minute. Those could be the best energies to invest in as there is obviously a very high demand.

Go renewable

Generally speaking, it’s best to look for investments that are going to have the potential for a long future. So, right now, that is looking like all forms of renewable energy. More and more individuals and organizations are making the switch to renewable energies now that it is very apparent just how much better for the environment they are compared to the likes of nuclear energy and fossil fuels. In fact, most countries are now looking to bring a complete stop to their use of fossil fuels over the next few years, so this could be one investment opportunity to stay well away from.

(Skeeze, Pixabay)

Always diversify

When you are trying to create an investment portfolio, it helps to diversify. This is so that you aren’t putting all of your eggs into one basket, so to speak. When it comes to diversifying your investments, there are different ways to do that. First of all, it’s best to invest in a few different investments and using different methods, including stocks, shares, and funds. If you want a few different energy investments in your portfolio, you should also look for ones from different countries. That way, if one currency or economy were to be negatively affected, only a portion of your investments will take a hit.

Look for fringe companies

It might also be worth moving away from the main energy companies and looking for some on the fringe of the industry. These will be growing very quickly, so you should find that your money makes some healthy returns.

Good luck with your energy investments.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this post are those of the contributor and not Science & Enterprise.

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