April 22, 2019

    Short Science News, Articles And The Latest Scientific Discoveries And Research

    Little health effects after a year in space

    Space | Apr 12, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    NASA's twin study has revealed that a year in space in the International Space Station has little effects on human health
    Little health effects after a year in space - space short science news

    In a twin study carried out by NASA, no or only minor, mostly reversable, effects have been observed on a whole battery of physiological parameters in an astronaut who spent one year in ISS, and his twin brother, also an astronaut but remaining on Earth.

    For example, some minor changes were found in the gut microbiome, but these reversed to normal within a short period of time. Some effects could be attributed to the return to Earth, such as increased inflammation markers and cognitive performance. Some gene expression changes and DNA damage had not normalized until six months after return to Earth.

    Thus, one year in space does not seem to harm astronaut’s health, but the persistent molecular changes should be subject of future studies, scientists say.

    Read the full story: University of Illinois at Chicago
    Scientific publication: Science

    After 2020, a better convention is needed to preserve biodiversity

    Life | Apr 12, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    To secure the future of this young elephant, better protection of its habitat is needed
    Stopping the loss of biodiversity by defining a new target for protected areas - life short science news

    Scientists argue that the current international target for the protected area estate, accepted by 190 nations, is failing.

    The use of simple percentage targets has proven not to be effective for conservation of nature. For example, areas of low biodiversity value have been protected, whereas the regions rich in biodiversity have been destroyed or left unprotected. On top of this, protected areas are often not well-managed, partly due to insufficient funds.

    A new target to be adopted in a new convention in 2020, when the current target expires, should take global significance for biodiversity into account, so that the most important areas for biodiversity can be protected, restored, and properly managed, scientists say.

    Read the full story: Wildlife Conservation Society
    Scientific publication: Science

    Four million new cases of childhood asthma per year caused by traffic-related air pollution

    Health | Apr 11, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    NO2 coming out of car exhausts is a major risk for childhood onset asthma
    Four million new cases of childhood asthma per year caused by traffic-related air pollution - health short science news

    Globally, there are an estimated 170 new cases of childhood asthma, caused by traffic-related air pollution, per 100,000 children per year, representing 13% of all annual childhood asthma cases worldwide.

    Problems are most severe in the big Chinese cities, Seoul, and Moscow.

    Pollution, especially NO2, in these cities is below the maximal recommended levels, and researchers therefore propose to re-evaluate those levels to reduce the number of children with asthma.

    Read the full story: The Lancet Planetary Health

    New early human species found in the Philippines

    Earth | Apr 11, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Prof. Piper (ANU) examining the third metatarsal of a new hominin species, named Homo luzonensis. Image: Lannon Harley, ANU
    New early human species found in the Philippines - human history short science news

    An international team of researchers have found the remains of a new early human species on Luzon Island in the Philippines. The new species has been named Homo luzonensis.

    The fossils that have been found include adult finger and toe bones, teeth, and a child’s femur, and are dated to 67,000 years ago.

    This discovery shows that the island region in southeast Asia, including the Philippines, has played an important role in the history of hominin evolution.

    Read the full story: Australian National University
    Scientific publication: Nature

    Alps could lose 90% of ice by 2100

    Earth | Apr 10, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Global warming could lead to Alps losing their ice cover
    Alps could lose 90% of ice by 2100 - interesting science news

    Researchers from Switzerland indicate that between 2017 and 2050, 50% of the glacier volume will completely disappear. The sad part is, this will occur independently whether we cut our green house gas emissions or not.

    The scientists used new computer algorithms and recently observed data, which included ice-flow and melt processes of the Alpine glaciers.

    Under limited warming conditions, which mean keeping temperature rises to below 2 degrees since industrial age, the Alps will lose more than 66% of ice. However, if we continue the global warming at the same pace as today, the Alps will lose 90%of ice in total.

    Read the full story: European Geosciences Union
    Scientific publication: The Cryosphere

    Spectacular breakthrough in space research: the first image of a black hole

    Space | Apr 10, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Using the Event Horizon Telescope, scientists obtained an image of the black hole at the center of galaxy M87, outlined by emission from hot gas swirling around it under the influence of strong gravity near its event horizon. Image: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration
    Spectacular breakthrough in space research: the first image of a black hole - space short science news

    Astronomers have captured an image of a black hole for the first time, using the Event Horizon Telescope (EVT). The black hole is at the center of galaxy Messier 87 some 55 million light-years away.

    While the black hole cannot be seen itself (its gravity is so strong that even light cannot escape), the material around it can be seen with the EVT.

    This spectacular new observation is the beginning of a new era in space research, in which the secrets of black holes, the existence of which was only theory until now, will be revealed.

    Read the full story: National Science Foundation

    Fecal transplantation reduces symptoms of autism

    Health | Apr 10, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Improving the microbiome might be a way to treat autism symptoms. Image: Shireen Dooling
    Fecal transplantation reduces symptoms of autism by 50% after two years - health short science news

    While it becomes increasingly known that the microbiome (the bacteria population living in the gut) is important for neurological health and proper neuronal communication, new research has further confirmed the importance of a healthy gut microbiome in autism.

    Eighteen autistic children who had received a fecal transplantation two years earlier showed a much-improved microbiome, and strongly diminished (50% reduction) symptoms of autism (language, social interaction and behavior).

    These results indicate that fecal transplantation is safe, and its beneficial effects in autistic children should be confirmed in a larger study.

    Read the full story: Arizona State University
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports

    Electrical pulses to restore memory

    Mind and Brain | Apr 10, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Electrical stimulation to the brain could restore memory in older individuals
    Electrical pulses to restore memory - interesting science news

    Researchers have shown that a decline in memory due to ageing can be temporarily reversed using electrical brain stimulation.

    Scientists used non-invasive brain stimulation in 42 individuals aged between 60 – 76 years and found that these individuals showed brain responses similar to young individuals between the age of 20-29 years.

    It is hypothesized that as age increases there is a disconnection between two brain regions namely the prefrontal cortex and the temporal cortex. Electrically stimulating these brain regions helps synchronize these connections.

    Read the full story: Boston University (via The Guardian)
    Scientific publication: Nature Neuroscience

    Just like humans, birds have different personalities which determine when breeding starts

    Life | Apr 09, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Personality of birds promotes adaptability of behavior
    Just like humans, birds have different personalities which determine when breeding starts - life short science news

    Studies in great tit (Parus major) have shown that breeding behavior changes under predation threat.

    Aggressive and exploring birds, normally starting the laying of eggs late in the breeding season, shifted their breeding forwards, whereas more passive birds showed exactly the opposite.

    Thus, breeding start is flexible, and depends on personality and external influences such as predation risk. Breeding success is not affected by personality. Together, this study shows the importance of different personalities within a population, so that survival of a species is more likely when external conditions change.

    Read the full story: Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

    An exoplanet with 13 times the mass of Jupiter

    Space | Apr 09, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    The first evidence has been obtained for the existence of a giant object in the Cygnus constellation orbiting a binary system of a live star and a white dwarf. Image: Leandro Almeida
    An exoplanet with 13 times the mass of Jupiter - space short science news

    Astronomers have discovered a giant exoplanet in the Cygnus constellation that has a mass 13 times that of Jupiter.

    It is orbiting an old binary system, in which one star is dead (a white dwarf) and the other being a live star (i.e. magnetically active) with small mass (a red dwarf).

    While most exoplanets have been observed in young binaries, consisting of two live stars, the current observations provide the first evidence for a similar organization in an old binary system.

    Read the full story: Fundacao de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de Sao Paulo
    Scientific publication: The Astronomical Journal

    Unprecedented changes in the Arctic with far-reaching consequences

    Earth | Apr 08, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    The Yukon River winds through western interior Alaska in early April. Image: Todd Paris, UAF
    Unprecedented changes in the Arctic with far-reaching consequences - climate change short science news

    Climate change in the Arctic is unfolding at such a fast pace, that it is changing to an area completely different from the Arctic as seen in the 20th century, a new study shows.

    Data collected as from 1971 until now show that ice melting at unprecedented speed, and the Arctic is getting greener and wetter. Also, plants start to flower earlier, when insects are not yet around to pollinate them.

    The changes in the Arctic may have important consequences in other regions on Earth because of changed rainfall patterns and rising sea water levels.

    Read the full story: University of Alaska Fairbanks
    Scientific publication: Environmental Research Letters

    Social insecurity causes stress

    Life | Apr 08, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    To avoid escalation of conflicts and to promote group cohesion male chimpanzees reduce aggressive interactions in times of social instability. Image: Anna Preis
    Social insecurity causes stress - life short science news

    A new study found that social insecurity increases stress in chimpanzees, and that the amount of urinary cortisol (a stress hormone) did not correlate with hierarchy in the group.

    Also, during times of social insecurity, like observed in intense male-male competition, aggression rates were lower, probably to avoid injuries and improve group cohesion.

    This study shows that, unlike previously thought, dominant and recessive members of a group have similar stress levels caused by instable social structure, and that proper conflict management strategies improve the wellbeing of the group.

    Read the full story: Max-Planck-Gesellschaft – Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
    Scientific publication: Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution

    Planet surviving the death of a star

    Space | Apr 05, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    A planetary fragment orbits the white dwarf, leaving a tail of gas in its wake, caused by collisions with debris. Image: University of Warwick/Mark Garlick
    Planet surviving the death of a star - space short science news

    For the first time, astronomers have obtained direct evidence that a planet has survived the destructive forces of a dying star. The planet’s survival might be linked to it being composed of iron and nickle.

    The planet did not survive unharmed, and researchers believe that the planet as has been seen now is only a fragment of the original planet. The planet is situated in a big disk of debris, probably from other planets, surrounding the star.

    The dead star (white dwarf) was of similar size of our Sun, which makes this discovery even more interesting, as it might help to understand what will happen to Earth when the Sun dies some six billion years from now.

    Read the full story: Warwick University
    Scientific publication: Science

    Poverty impacts our genes too

    Health | Apr 05, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Poverty has a powerful impact on our genes
    Poverty impacts our genes too - interesting science news

    Several lines of previous research have shown that socioeconomic status (SES) influences both human health and disease. Now researchers have shown that poverty is associated with changes in DNA methylation which is an epigenetic marker that influences gene expression across 1500 genes.

    This shows that individual experiences over the course of lifetime get embodied in the genes and can literally influence the function of these genes. This indicates that poverty has long lasting impact on a host of physiological systems and processes.

    Further research needs to be done to ascertain whether these epigenetic changes have an impact on immune responses to infections, neurological development and overall health of a person.

    Read the full story: Northwestern University (via ScienceDaily)
    Scientific publication: American Journal of Physical Anthropology

    More insight into Parkinson’s disease

    Mind and Brain | Apr 05, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    A zebrafish brain, with dopamine-producing nerve cells in red and the stem cells that produce them in green. Thomas Becker, The University of Edinburgh
    More insight into Parkinson’s disease - brain short science news

    Brain cells that produce dopamine are the ones that are lost in Parkinson’s disease patients.

    A new study has found that these cells regenerate constantly from a pool of specialized stem cells in the brains of zebrafish, and that the immune system plays a key role in this.

    Understanding how the immune system does this precisely could lead to novel treatment options for Parkinson’s disease patients.

    Read the full story: University of Edingburgh
    Scientific publication: Journal of Neuroscience

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