August 21, 2019

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

    One in 7 children born with a low birthweight

    Health | May 16, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Low birthweight is more common in low- and middle-income countries, and reflects poorer maternal or fetal health
    One in 7 children born with a low birthweight - health short science news

    The scientific journal The Lancet reports that 20.5 million babies were born with a low birthweight, i.e. under 2500 g or 5.5 pounds in 2015. Most of these, over 90%, were born in low- and middle-income countries.

    While all 195 member states of the WHO committed to a 30% reduction in low birthweight prevalence by 2025, the current numbers indicate that progress is slow, and that efforts have to be doubled to meet this goal.

    Low birthweight is indicative of reduced maternal or fetal health, and predicts mortality, stunting, and adult-onset chronic conditions.

    Read the full story:
    Scientific publication: The Lancet – Global Health


    Plastic pollution harms the bacteria that help us breathe

    Earth | May 15, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Plastics in the sea harm oxygen-producing bacteria
    Plastic pollution harms the bacteria that help us breathe - Earth short science news

    Plastic pollution in the oceans has been found not only to harm fish and marine mammals, but also the tiniest of organisms, bacteria.

    In particular, chemicals leaching from plastics reduce the growth, and impair the photosynthesis and hence oxygen production of Prochlorococcus, the ocean’s most abundant photosynthetic bacteria. It has been estimated that these bacteria alone acount for 10% of the total oxygen production on Earth.

    Thus, plastic pollution threatens to reduce the oxygen that we breathe each and every day.

    Read the full story: Macquarie University
    Scientific publication: Communications Biology


    Kids who watch more TV sleep less

    Mind and Brain | May 15, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Nighttime TV in chidlren affects sleep patterns
    Kids who watch more TV sleep less - interesting science news

    Approximately 35% of 3-5 year old kids have TV in their bedrooms and atleast a third of them fall asleep with the TV on mostly watching violent stimulating videos. Now, researchers have shown that this affects the quality as well as duration of sleep in these kids.

    Further, it was seen that daytime napping as increased in these children but it did not fully compensate for the lost night sleep. While several parents believe TV helps kids fall to sleep, the current research bust this myth.

    The current recommended guidelines is that children between 2-4 years shouldn’t have more than one hour of sedentary screen time and it should be accompanied by parents watching the TV with the kids.

    Read the full story: University of Massachusetts at Amherst
    Scientific publication: Sleep Health


    Regular coffee drinkers are better to catch a whiff of it

    Mind and Brain | May 15, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Ability to detect small traces of coffee increases with higher craving
    Regular coffee drinkers are better to catch a whiff of it - interesting science news

    Researchers have shown that regular coffee drinkers can sniff out even trace amounts of coffee as well as faster at recognizing its aroma as compared to non-coffee drinkers.

    High caffeine consumers were able to detect even heavily diluted coffee and this ability increased as the level of craving also increased. This shows that even with mildly addictive drugs, craving increases the ability to detect that substance.

    This study points out that ability to detect the smell of a drug could be a useful index of drug dependence and open new ways to treat addictions.

    Read the full story: University of Portsmouth
    Scientific publication: Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology


    What we can learn from algae to improve photovoltaic cells

    Life | May 15, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Red algae are amongst the most efficient converters of sunlight into energy. Image: Johnmartindavies [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
    What we can learn from algae to improve photovoltaic cells - life short science news

    As algae manage to use and store solar energy more efficiently than any other organism (up to 98%), biochemists have set out to determine how algae do this precisely.

    They found that algae have many protrusions (antennae) on their surface, that are made up of stacks of tiny disks. Inside each disk there is a gamma building block that passes light efficiently into the light harvesting system. The efficiency may further be enhanced by the presence of at least four different gamma blocks, making it possible to capture light under all circumstances.

    Perhaps that the light capture system of algae could be used as a blueprint for the next generation of photovoltaic cells.

    Read the full story: Utrecht University
    Scientific publication: Chem


    Titanium in food affects the gut bacteria

    Health | May 14, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Titanium in food affects the gut bacteria
    Titanium in food affects the gut bacteria - interesting science news

    Researchers studied the impact of the food additive E171 (titanium dioxide nanoparticles) which is present in high quantities in food and medicine as a whitening agent. E171 is present in everything from chewing gum to mayonnaise and is consumed in high quantities by the general population.

    It is observed that in mice consuming E171, the gut bacteria are adversely affected triggering inflammation in the gut. This could lead to diseases like inflammatory bowel disease and even colorectal cancer.

    Also, increased incidence of dementia, auto-immune diseases and asthma is also linked to these titanium nanoparticles and this calls for strict regulation of food industry.

    Read the full story: University of Sydney
    Scientific publication: Frontiers in Nutrition


    Key brain protein involved in food intake discovered

    Mind and Brain | May 14, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Obesity is linked to a ACBP protein synthesized by astrocytes in the hypothalamus
    Key brain protein involved in food intake discovered - interesting science news

    This might come as a shock; however researchers have revealed that controlling your weight might be dependent on a brain protein regardless of the amount of exercise or diet you could be doing. The protein in question is acyl-CoA-binding protein (ACBP).

    ACBP is produced by astrocytes, which are cells which usually support the neurons. Researchers have shown that the proopiomelanocortin neurons which reduce our food intake are in close communication with the astrocytes that produce ACBP in a specific brain region called the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus.

    This brain region is the feeding center of the brain and controls both food intake and energy expenditure. Absence of the ACBP gene in astrocytes in this brain region promotes obesity which indicates that it is involved in weight control.

    Read the full story: University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM)
    Scientific publication: Journal of Clinical Investigation


    How much is too much coffee?

    Health | May 13, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Too much coffee can increase the risk of heart diseases
    How much is too much coffee? - interesting science news

    A morning coffee is sometimes the essential kick required by several people to begin their day. However, the question of how much is too much has always generated too much debate.

    Adding to this debate is the latest research which indicates that 6 or more coffees a day can be detrimental to your health and it could increase the risk of heart disease by 22%. This research confirms that excess coffee can trigger high blood pressure which is a precursor to heart diseases.

    The study used the data from UK Biobank which included approximately 350,000 participants in the age range of 37-73 years to come to this conclusion. So, coffee is moderation is absolutely fine and do not overindulge it.

    Read the full story: University of South Australia
    Scientific publication: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition


    Climate change triggering growth in old trees

    Earth | May 10, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Tree rings collected from old-growth Dahurian larch trees. Trees grow one ring per year. Credit: Xianliang Zhang.
    Climate change triggering growth in old trees - interesting science news

    Larch trees, the northernmost tree species on Earth have grown more between 2005 and 2014 as compared to the previous 40 years and scientists put this on climate change.

    Further, it has been seen that the oldest trees have shown the biggest growth spurt i.e. trees older than 400 years have shown the most rapid growth.

    It has been seen that the soil warming due to global warming is behind this teenage like growth spurt in old trees. While this is good in the short term, it could spell a disaster in the long term, because slow-growing trees will ultimately degrade due to raising soil temperatures.

    Read the full story: American Geophysical Union
    Scientific publication: Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences


    The afternoon siesta-suppressing gene discovered

    Health | May 10, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    The 'daywake' gene is linked to afternoon naps in flies
    The afternoon siesta-suppressing gene discovered - interesting science news

    Researchers working on fruit flies have identified a siesta-suppressing gene which could inform us on the biology that helps several organisms including humans to balance the benefits of a good afternoon nap vs. getting important things done.

    The afternoon naps which occur more on intense warm days were probably evolved as a protection against exposure to hot temperatures in the afternoon. However, certain fruit flies have a gene called ‘daywake’, which suppresses this activity especially when the temperatures cool down to increase the time spent seeking mates or food.

    Interestingly, the ‘daywake’ gene is adjacent to the ‘period’ gene which controls the circardian rhythm or the sleep-wake cycle of these flies.

    Read the full story: Rutgers University
    Scientific publication: Current Biology


    Bad news: Salmonella carries a newly discovered antibiotic resistance gene

    Life | May 08, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    This is the protein encoded by the mcr-9 gene that renders bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Image: Ahmed Gaballa, Cornell University
    Bad news: Salmonella carries a newly discovered antibiotic resistance gene - life short science news

    When scientists analyzed the genome of Salmonella bacteria, they discovered a gene, named mcr-9, that renders bacteria resistant to the last resort antibiotic colistin.

    Colistin has been designated a highest priority antibiotic by the World Health Organization, and is given when other antibiotics are without effect.

    As mcr-9 can jump from bacteria species to species, this gene may impose problems for our health as more bacteria may become resistant to antibiotics, even to colistin.

    Read the full story: Cornell University
    Scientific publication: mBio


    Plastic gets its much-needed makeover

    Technology | May 08, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Unlike conventional plastics, the monomers of PDK plastic could be recovered and freed from any compounded additives simply by dunking the material in a highly acidic solution. (Credit: Peter Christensen et al./Berkeley Lab)
    Plastic gets its much-needed makeover - interesting science news

    Like a Lego set, researchers have designed a recyclable plastic which can be broken down into its individual parts at the molecular level and the it can be put back together into any other shape, texture and color multiple time. All this without a loss of performance or quality.

    The new material is called polydiketoenamine (PDK). Unlike the conventional plastic currently used, PDK can be broken down into its individual components by simply putting it in a highly acidic solution. This acid also separates PDK from the chemical additives which gives it a brand fresh look.

    This take recycling to the next level because the current plastic’s most recyclable component PET is only recycled at the rate of 20-30% and the rest of it goes into landfills to lie around for hundreds of years.

    Read the full story: DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
    Scientific publication: Nature Chemistry


    Gut bacteria and depression?

    Mind and Brain | May 08, 2019 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Gut bacteria linked to depression
    Gut bacteria and depression? - interesting science news

    Gut microbiome has been the center of the new wave of research over the last couple of years. In a recent study, researchers have shown that gut bacteria altered depression linked behavior as well as gut inflammation signs in rodents.

    Researchers found that stress altered the gut bacteria population in certain rodents which then went on to show depressive behavior. Then, they transplanted gut bacteria of stress vulnerable rats into to stress resilient rats and the later showed signs of depression too.

    The vulnerable rats had higher proportion of bacteria named Clostridia which could be at the center of this storm. Finding novel therapies some being based in gut bacterial transplants could be important for treating psychiatric conditions like depression.

    Read the full story: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
    Scientific publication: Molecular Psychiatry


    Looking a fish in the mouth: a new species of parasite found

    Life | May 08, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Egg-carrying female of the new to science species Elthusa xena. Image: Serita van der Wal (under CC-BY 4.0 license)
    Looking a fish in the mouth: a new species of parasite found - life short science news

    Researchers from the North-West University in South Africa have discovered a new parasite of fish.

    They are crustaceans (like crabs and shrimps), and attach themselves to the gills of especially klipfish (genus Clinus).

    The new species has been baptized Elthusa Xena, named after the warrior princess Xena (from the American fantasy television series), as the females appear particularly tough with their elongated and ovioid bodies.

    Read the full story: North West University South Africa
    Scientific publication: Zookeys


    Why immunotherapy does not cure half of cancer patients

    Health | May 07, 2019 | Erwin van den Burg

    Mismatch repair deficiency refers to a characteristic of some cancer cells that create a large number of changes in the DNA, leading to new products that can be attacked by the immune system during immunotherapy. Image: Andrew H. Lee
    Why immunotherapy does not cure half of cancer patients - cancer short science news

    Scientists have discovered why cancers in about half of the cancer patients do not respond to immunotherapy. Analysis of tumors in mice and humans revealed that those cancers that do respond have a higher degree of microsatellite instability (MSI) than those with a lower MSI.

    This means that the DNA of cancers with high MSI is changed considerably. This may give rise to new proteins in cancer cells that the immune system can attack.

    Thus, the level of MSI can now be used as a biomarker, like a crystal ball, to predict which patient will benefit from immunotherapy and which patient will not.

    Read the full story: Johns Hopkins
    Scientific publication: Science


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